Macmillan Acute Oncology Nurses and Macmillan Information and Support Service

Royal Oldham Hospital

Early in the pandemic, the Lead Cancer team from across the North East sector of the Northern Care Alliance recognised the significant impact that COVID-19 was going to have on people living with cancer. With potential disruption to diagnostic pathways, treatment and follow-up plans, there was a clear need to reach out to patients and offer information, support and advice.

Following consultation with a range of cancer professionals, the Macmillan Information and Support Service produced and sent letters to over 12,000 people who had been diagnosed with cancer over the preceding five years. The aim was to inform, reassure and encourage them to contact the Macmillan Acute Oncology Service or the Macmillan Information and Support Service to access support and advice.

The letter generated over 150 telephone calls, which were fielded by the Macmillan Information and Support Service and the Macmillan Acute Oncology Service. With queries including clinical concerns, emotional issues, practical problems and social isolation, the initiative was not only an invaluable way of supporting patients at a worrying time, but also an effective means of identifying gaps in pathways and areas for improvement.

What the winners say

‘I think we all acknowledged that it was the most horrendous time for people with cancer. We just wanted to reach out to patients and give them access to whatever service they needed and to reassure them that somebody was there for them and they were not cut off.' - Charlotte Brosnan, Macmillan Information and Support Service Manager

Macmillan staff standing outside on grass
Image: Macmillan Acute Oncology Nurses and Macmillan Information and Support Service


Macmillan ACP Upper GI/HPC CNS Team

Sandwell District General Hospital

In April 2020, a new and faster diagnosis standard was introduced. It stated that 75% of patients should be told if they have cancer within 28 days of referral.

The Macmillan Upper GI/HPB CNS Team identified that not all of their patients received a diagnosis within this timeframe because they had to wait for an appointment with a consultant for the news to be broken to them, and the availability of these appointments was limited.

To bring diagnosis times down, the team pioneered a structured cancer clinic led by Advanced Clinical Practitioner, Jo Harvey. During the clinic, Jo (supported by CNSs Kath Johnson, Grace Preece and cancer care navigator Kerrie Burns) breaks the news to patients, organises tests and further biopsies and refers patients on to oncologists.

Not only has this innovative and cost-effective way of working led to 81% of patients achieving the 28-day diagnosis standard compared to the previous 46%, but it’s also given patients a complete and holistic experience. 

What the winners say

‘The most rewarding thing is the autonomous practice that we have and the collaborative working. We function fully as a team and I think that’s because we have the same drive, passion and empathy.' - Jo Harvey, Advanced Clinical Practitioner

The Macmillan Upper GI HPB CNS team standing on grass
Image: Macmillan Upper GI HPB CNS team


Head and Neck Cancer AHP/CNS Team

Altnagelvin Hospital

Historically, head and neck cancer patients who needed radiotherapy at the North West Cancer Centre did not get the chance to meet and understand the roles of the professionals who would be involved in their care during treatment. The patients’ knowledge about the potential side effects of the treatment was found to be lacking.

To help patients to feel better prepared for their treatment and deliver better outcomes, the Head and Neck Cancer AHP / CNS Team worked with patients to co-design an innovative prehabilitation initiative.

The prehabilitation takes the form of tailored sessions where patients come to the cancer centre to meet with their radiographer, speech and language therapist, dietitian and clinical nurse specialist two weeks before radiotherapy begins. Not only does this allow patients to understand the roles within the team, but it also means they can be screened for and supported with any existing speech, swallowing, eating, nutritional or mental health issues before treatment.

Each patient is also shown a bespoke radiotherapy video and given a leaflet on side effects, both of which were created by the team in direct response to patient feedback.

What the winners say

‘Developing this service and creating these resources has made us feel really proud. We feel our team is a role model for others, given our unwavering commitment in challenging current practice and positive feedback provided by our patients.’ - David Curtin, Macmillan Clinical Lead Speech and Language Therapist 

A building which says North West Cancer Centre on it
Image: North West Cancer Centre


Macmillan Information and Support Services Manager

David Banks, Tameside and Glossop IC HS FT

Many people with cancer struggle with depression and have unmet psychological and emotional needs – and these are often exacerbated in lower-income households. In Tameside and Glossop, an area of significant income deprivation, cancer patients had no clear access to mental health support until David Banks, the Macmillan Information and Support Service Manager at Tameside Hospital, set about developing a new pathway.

Understanding the financial pressures of his organisation, David knew funding would be an issue, but he didn’t give up. His research led to him take the innovative approach of working in partnership with Healthy Minds, a local IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Support) organisation, to develop a psychological support and talking therapy service. David has continued to build on this innovation, engaging with other services to offer wrap-around holistic support. 

What the winner says

‘It’s really rewarding to see the difference these interventions make. When first arriving, people are often very anxious, and feelings of hopelessness and desperation are common. Once they’ve received the help they need, people leave feeling more positive and more in control of their lives, knowing where to come if they need help in the future.' - David Banks, Macmillan Information and Support Service Manager a Tameside Hospital

A man standing in a hospital wearing a Macmillan lanyard
Image: David Banks



To view all the Innovation Excellence finalists watch the video below and click here.