Brand new, innovative follow up clinics have been introduced at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to improve patient experience and ensure that patients are receiving the best care possible for them.
The clinics are for patients treated for head and neck cancers, and aim to provide holistic care for the more “low risk” patients. The traditional practice is that, following treatment, consultants review the patients for five years to ensure that they remain free of cancer.
However, in the third, fourth and fifth year following treatment, the risk of cancer returning is significantly reduced. The Macmillan clinical nurse specialists in head and neck at the Royal Preston Hospital have the skills necessary to monitor patients in this way, and also to assess the unmet/undiagnosed needs of these patients, and help patients to self-manage the long term consequences of treatments.
Head and neck cancer patients can experience significant symptoms which continue to have a huge impact on their everyday lives such as difficulties with eating, breathing and drinking so the team are able to provide additional, specialised support for these concerns.
The clinics launched on Tuesday 15th January and have been developed on the back of a major initiative by the NHS and Macmillan Cancer Support to ensure that patients receive ‘risk stratified’ follow-up care. That may mean supporting self-care with open access to the team, or providing timely, evidence based support at the right time by the right person in the right place. Already they have been able to help to ensure that patients are receiving the right treatment, in the right place for them.
Andrew Fishburn, Macmillan Lead Clinical Nurse Specialist in Head and Neck at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, said: “We started the clinic yesterday and I have already seen a patient who has been in follow up for many years. By managing this patient’s expectations and developing the appropriate psychological coping strategies in the clinic; they were happy to be discharged back to the care of the GP, knowing that should any future problem arise they could be seen by the head and neck consultant team within a week of referral.”
“I’m not aware of any other head and neck unit running a clinic like this. The model that we have chosen is a challenging one that uses advanced nursing practice skills such as developing appropriate psychological coping strategies, nasendoscopy (a test to look at the inside of the nose, throat and voice box using specialised equipment), and neck examinations which many head and neck clinical nurse specialists do not use, but nasendoscopy and neck examination have been skills that have been developed within our roles. Not only does it benefit patients following treatment, but also frees up the consultant team to allow them to spend additional time treating newly diagnosed head and neck cancer patients.”