As if facing cancer isn’t dreadful enough, the thought of trips and stays in hospitals alarms many people even further. It can all be so daunting- and often, the one place a person would rather be is in their familiar surroundings, at home, in a comfortable space surrounded by ‘everyday life’ and family. In this article we explore how the health system is looking to follow Care Industry leaders, like Helping Hands’ footsteps in offering care from home, it shows how many people value the opportunity to be treated and cared for at home.

In a revolutionary new project, MacMillan and the NHS will be offering cancer patients across the South West treatment in their own homes by highly skilled paramedics. It has been the norm for patients to travel into hospitals regularly, to receive medical treatment - often chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is infamously known for causing a range of upsetting side effects, including: sickness, depression, hair loss and exhaustion. Combine this situation with the stress and anxiety of trips to and from hospital, we can clearly see how treatment at home for a cancer patient could be a much more comfortable and sought-after option.

Allowances are made circumstantially and for the benefit of each individual patient. However, the fact that those living with this illness could be cared for at home shows medical confidence, and progress, moving forward. This kind of service could potentially provide a huge sense of relief to cancer sufferers and their families.

Doctors and medical professionals seem very positive about cancer patients being seen at home, too. This is because research suggests that patients feel much more relaxed when treated in their own space. Some doctors further believe that a speedier recovery can take place if a patient is less stressed and better rested.

Where appropriate, the new service sees specialist nurses deliver chemotherapy at home, a process that takes about two hours and involves intravenous therapy. Subsequently, a sachet must be worn for the next 46 hours, which slowly removes the chemo. Two days later, a nurse returns to disconnect the sachet and make checks. If a patient is receiving treatment at home, the visiting nurse or paramedic will record all treatment details in a folder, which is kept at home. They will also inform the hospital of any chemotherapy that has been prescribed and given. If any changes need to be made to a patient’s care, then the oncologist or haematologist at hospital will give guidance, but for the most part, the idea of this new service is to try and give cancer patients a better quality of life whilst dealing with the illness.

Private care companies are usually equipped now to accompany this new service. Carers of this type of provider receive regular training in order to keep up to date with changes. Within the private sector, carers run errands or help around the home, as well as administer low-grade medical support, which might involve catheter care or dressing wounds. Many cancer patients are opting to consider home support and a trained carer, to accompany their NHS provisions.

Also significantly, paramedics and ambulance staff are trained in cancer care for emergency call outs and situations. Where a 999 call for a cancer patient used to typically result in an immediate trip to hospital, an increasing number of paramedics are now trained to attend and deliver care for cancer patients in their own homes. Macmillan, who has £1m to fund the project over four years, suggest that it is important for medical staff to decide and choose when delivering care at home is doing ‘right’ for the patient. Joanne Stonehouse, who is the Macmillan project lead for this service, hopes that this service will avoid unnecessary emergency admissions.

During training, paramedics and medical staff are additionally taught ways to address family members with sensitivity and how to cope and manage difficult situations. Again, this type of ‘care’ reflects some of what is typified of the private care sector and shows lots of promise in the way that staff are being trained to deal with all those involved in a medical situation or emergency.

At this moment in time, only certain parts of the UK have an NHS provider who can deliver care at home. The service and project will be reviewed for further funding and resources, to decide whether an increasing number of cancer patients will be able to receive care in the comfort of their own home.  

Written by guest blogger, Ella Hendrix