CANCER patients who go to hospital with complications resulting from the disease, or its treatment, will benefit from an improved service launched this week (15 September) at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The Acute Oncology Service (AOS) offers prompt assessment and advice, seven days a week, for people who have received treatment for cancer within the last six weeks.
Cancer patients may suffer side effects or complications as a result of their condition, or the treatment they are receiving. These are most likely to occur within six weeks of treatment, and may include nausea and vomiting, or more serious conditions such as neutropenic sepsis, an infection which requires rapid treatment with antibiotics.
When cancer patients come to the accident and emergency department for treatment, or are admitted to other wards in hospital, staff alert the AOS team. The patient is then assessed by a specialist nurse from the AOS, to ensure that they receive the best treatment as soon as possible.
L-R Launching the new Acute Oncology Service at Basildon University Hospital – Emma Elliott, Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist; Hannah Coffey, Director of Operations; Karen Munro, Palliative Care Team Leader
Patients who are seen by the AOS team will be given an alert card, which they can show on any future visits to hospital, to prompt clinical staff to check for more information.
The AOS team consists of five nurse specialists and three oncologists. The service was initially a pilot project led by nurses, which ran for the first three month of this year. Since it began, the AOS has seen 584 patients, and has resulted in measurable improvements in the care of cancer patients, including faster administration of antibiotics, reduced length of stay in hospital and quicker transfers to specialist wards or the patient’s chosen place of care, such as a hospice or their own home.
Based on this evidence of improved care, the Trust has recruited additional staff and made the extended AOS service permanent. Basildon University Hospital is one of the first in the country to operate a face-to-face acute oncology assessment service seven days a week, from 9am to 5pm. Outside these hours, an oncologist is available to give advice by telephone.
Hannah Coffey, Director of Operations at the Trust, who prepared the business case for the enhanced service, said: “Our oncology nurses have done a tremendous job designing this improved service, which makes a real difference to our cancer patients.
“It is too important to be shut down at weekends, when there can be even more need for it, so we are particularly glad that we can now offer it seven days a week.”
The Macmillan Specialist Palliative Care Service is also now providing a seven day a week service at Basildon Hospital, from 9am to 5pm. Telephone advice and face-to-face assessments are available for patients with palliative care needs.