A new National Acute Oncology Nursing Service is helping cancer patients avoid waiting in Emergency Departments in hospitals across the Saolta group.
The service has already allowed 84% of at-risk patients who used it to get medical help without Emergency Department attendance or admission.
The move comes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) funded 26 Acute Oncology Nurses in hospitals nationwide including hospitals across the Saolta Group (including Letterkenny University Hospital).
Patients undergoing active cancer treatment who become ill at home can contact the Acute Oncology Nurses via a dedicated phone service instead of ending up in the Emergency Department.
The specialist nurses assess the patient’s symptoms using an evidence-based tool and advise on the most appropriate care and management required.
An audit of the December 2022 calls (1,383) received by Acute Oncology Nurses during the 8am to 4 pm service showed that 84% of patients with cancer who contacted the service did not need to attend Emergency Department.
Of the patients who required further assessment in hospital, where possible, they were seen in the medical assessment unit or oncology day ward. In some instances, where clinically appropriate following assessment by the Acute Oncology Nurse, some patients had to attend the Emergency Department because of the seriousness of their symptoms.
Terry Hanan, National Clinical Lead for Cancer Nursing, HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) said: ‘’During recent pressures in Emergency Departments, the NCCP nursing team received feedback from services highlighting the valuable impact that the Acute Oncology Nursing Service has made. This service ensures that vulnerable cancer patients are assessed, and where possible, avoid ED attendance.’
“The service is currently available from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. We also link in with community services such as Community Intervention Teams (CITs), GPs and public health nurses to provide additional support to patients where required. Our aim is to build resilience to expand this service further, beyond Covid, so that more patients being treated for cancer can avail of the service ’’ Terry added.
The recruitment of Acute Oncology Nurses in hospitals was welcomed by the Saolta Group.
Galway University Hospitals, Mayo University Hospital, Portiuncula University Hospital, Sligo University Hospital and Letterkenny University Hospital have all been included in the funding for the Acute Oncology Nurses.
Prof Michael Kerin, Clinical Director Saolta Cancer MCAN said: “This is a major advance and shows the value of an integrated cancer programme which can look after cancer patients in an appropriate way and reduce the pressure on acute services especially the Emergency Dept. It is a very important step on the road to comprehensive cancer care.”