Dedicated team on call to help cancer patients
A NEW service has been launched in Bristol to ensure cancer patients get the best possible care when they feel unwell due to their treatments.
Rather than turning up at accident and emergency if they become poorly while undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments, people can phone a dedicated number and either get advice about how to manage their symptoms or advised to come into the new acute assessment unit.
The team at the nurse-led four-bedded unit – which supports patients from across Bristol – have the experience to meet the deal with the needs of patients and to reassure them over their symptoms.
Consultant clinical oncologist, Stephen Falk, said that the changes had been made to reduce the number of people dying while undergoing chemotherapy after an audit of deaths of patients having the treatment was published.
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"There was a real problem about where people went when they were ill," he said.
"If they were ill while on radiotherapy there was nowhere to go and people were being seen in corridors and all sorts.
"There was a national drive to set up acute oncology services for a number of things and one of these was about dealing with the complications of chemotherapy and we decided we should have a unit here where people who were ill could be seen, with a single point of contact.
"We are confident that we have improved care for people coming through the department. It stops them going through A&E."
He said that there were about two chemotherapy patients a day who become quite unwell while on treatment and about one in ten of all people having chemotherapy will need to use the acute assessment unit at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre.
Nurse practitioner Tara Shine, who leads the unit, said: "When patients telephone we will triage them and depending on the outcome will advise them on whether to stay at home, follow them up the next day or bring them in here to the assessment unit and treat them or do investigations. Patients are then either sent home or if they are very unwell may be admitted to hospital."
Miss Shine said she also speaks to colleagues from different health trusts, GPs and district nurses who call for advice about their patients.
"There are excellent lines of communication with the unit, the rest of the organisation and the community," Dr Falk said.
"This is very important for people having treatment.
"This is about trying to keep people in the community really.
"It is about people being in the right place at the right time.
"People may need to come into hospital but a lot of people are much better managed in the community, which is a more comfortable place for them to be."
Miss Shine said: "Sometimes I am able to say to patients that we do expect the symptoms they are experiencing and that at the moment it is nothing to worry about and they are always grateful."
All the equipment on the unit has been funded by the Friends of Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre