A new way of caring for breast cancer patients launched in Staffordshire

Thanks to pioneering work at the University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM), Library Assistant Louise Jutton, 56, feels re-assured and more in control of her cancer diagnosis, which came just fifteen months ago.

Over the summer, the Trust launched a new care pathway for breast cancer patients with funding from the West Midlands Cancer Alliance. The self-managed approach means that when a patient has completed their treatment and has been assessed as being “clinically stable”, they are supported to manage their recovery without visiting hospital.

Louise, who is from Stafford said “This approach has given me more time to speak with a professional, ask more questions and generally feel more knowledgeable about everything happening to my body. I’ve felt more like myself and less like a patient and have been provided with open-ended support right from the very beginning.”

Since launching in July, more than 60 patients have joined the “Breast Self-Managed Pathway”, and this Breast Cancer Awareness Month many patients are commenting on the support they’ve been given to continue their recovery.

Patients being treated for breast cancer are usually placed on standard follow-up pathways which require visits to hospital every six to twelve months.

This new method seeks to save the patient time away from employment, social or family activities and puts the patient more in control of their care as outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan.

Patients join the pathway only after a detailed discussion with an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANPs), who work as champions of the self-managed pathways.

Each patient is given advice on signs and symptoms to watch for, a dedicated Helpline number, a calendar of health and wellbeing events, and links to a network of local support groups.

Helen Francis, Breast Advanced Nurse Practitioner said; “The approach was designed and introduced here at UHNM. It has involved a large number of specialists from across the organisation including breast surgeons, oncologists, breast ANPs, oncology ANPs, clinical nurse specialists, managers, system specialists, service improvement and project management expertise. We also have a dedicated cancer navigator who is key to tracking patients on the new pathway, and helps patients feel supported by answering helpline calls in real time.”

Breast Surgeon and Clinical Lead for the Breast team at UHNM Mr Soni Soumian said: “The redesigned pathway allows patients more freedom in managing their own recovery. Patients are supported throughout by the excellent Breast Cancer care staff just a phone call away, with hospital visits minimised to help patients recuperate.”

Dr Andrea Gordon, Programme Director, West Midlands Cancer Alliance said: “Implementing personalised follow ups has been an national priority to give patients more control. We are delighted with the success at University Hospitals of North Midlands with breast cancer patients, and we will look to build on this with patients of colorectal and prostate cancer going forward. “

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