A pledge developed with patients to put them at the centre of cancer care has been unveiled. The Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge was launched on 2 June to improve service and care for secondary breast cancer patients.

Monday 5 June 2017      Improving services
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L-R: Susanna Glover Health Advocacy Officer at Breast Cancer Now, Elly Higham, Tracy Acock, patient representatives Jan Hudson and Yola Kwasnicka and Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Chief Executive Debbie Fleming

Breast Cancer Now and Breast Cancer Care have teamed up to help the hospital identify important changes to improve services for local people diagnosed with incurable secondary breast cancer.

There are around 36,000 people living with secondary breast cancer in the UK – cancer that has spread beyond the breast or armpit to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or liver.1 Secondary breast cancer cannot be cured but it can be treated and controlled, sometimes for a number of years.

The Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge was designed with secondary breast cancer patients in mind. It gives them the opportunity to work with the two charities by providing their view on what matters most to them and their care.

Through questionnaires and workshops over the past year a range of patient-led service improvements at the hospital have been identified, these include:

  • Recruitment of a band 4 cancer support worker
  • An area on the website where patients can see photos and descriptions of members of their MDT team
  • Staff to visit the Dorset Cancer Centre to share tips on best practice on fitting cannulas

Tracy Acock is a Macmillan Metastatic breast cancer clinical nurse specialist and Pledge Lead at Poole Hospital. She says that it’s often the little things that make the difference to patients:

“The Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge has helped us understand patients’ views and experiences, so that we can begin to improve services and care for those living with incurable secondary breast cancer.

“I’m really keen to raise awareness of this particular group of patients whose lives are often clouded by ongoing treatments and the uncertainty of living with a disease for which there sadly is no cure. For these patients, it is often the little things that can make a world of difference, and their insight is fundamental in identifying where improvements can be made, and the most effective ways in which to do this.

“The launch marks 18 months of fantastic work at Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – and we will continue to work together to ensure the highest standard of care for patients with secondary breast cancer.”

Elly Higham is a secondary breast cancer patient. She is also a patient representative who helped develop the pledge at Poole Hospital. Elly said:

“This is monumental – you actually feel like you’re involved with your own care.

“Cannulation can be really uncomfortable so they’ve stopped preventing you drinking for four hours before so you’re more hydrated and easier to cannulate. It makes a lot of difference, it really does. It makes things a little bit easier.”

Dr Jo Brady is a consultant clinical oncologist at Poole Hospital and works closely with Tracy. She said:

“One of the issues that we have with breast cancer is that the focus is often on the surgical side of things and the people who are having the initial treatment for their cancer.

“Patients are now living longer with secondary cancer and there are more people in the community living with the disease.

“I think most importantly it’s a patient-led initiative so it’s allowing these people take control of their care and have their input.”

Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now and Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Care, said:

“We are delighted that Poole Hospital has pledged to achieve top standards of care for people living with secondary breast cancer.

“Those living with the disease require specialist support to address their complex needs and the uncertainty they face about the future.

“It is wonderful that patients sit at the heart of this pioneering initiative and that we’re helping to ensure they receive the best treatment and care.”

1 Secondary breast cancer statistics are an estimate taken from New pathways of care for cancer survivors: adding the numbers, Maher, J. and McConnell, H. British Journal of Cancer, 2011


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