New care pathway for breast cancer patients

Pictured from left: Julie Boulton, Breast Advanced Nurse Practitoner, Elizabeth Lamont, Breast Care Navigator and Helen Francis, Breast Advanced Nurse Practitioner

Patients are feeling reassured and more in control of their cancer diagnosis, thanks to pioneering work at UHNM.  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 Jutton, a 56-year-old library assistant from Stafford, was diagnosed just fifteen months ago.

Louise 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'.

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 Advanced Nurse Practitioners 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 at UHNM, 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, Liz, who is key to tracking patients on the new pathway and helps patients feel supported by answering helpline calls in real time."

Mr Soni Soumian, Breast Surgeon and Clinical Lead at UHNM, 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 at West Midlands Cancer Alliance, said: "Implementing personalised follow-ups has been a national priority to give patients more control. We are delighted with UHNM's success with breast cancer patients, and we will look to build on this with patients of colorectal and prostate cancer going forward."