Pictured, left to right, Chloe Ince (Macmillan admin support), Sarah Turnbull (Macmillan nurse facilitator), Tina Thompson (Macmillan partnership manager in the North East), Stuart Holliday (NEAS clinical services manager), Paul Gallloway (Macmillan engagement officer), and Sue Tucker (strategic head of the Emergency Operations Centre at NEAS)

New specialist service launched for terminally ill

Dedicated Macmillan team first for the North

A specialist service which aims to ensure the wishes of terminally ill patients in the North East are respected, was officially launched today (Monday, 24 September).

The partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support and North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (NEAS), which is believed to be the first of its kind across the North, aims to address problems which have been highlighted across the UK around the quality of care and support for patients at the end of their lives.

Macmillan has invested £350,000 funding over a three-year period, to enable NEAS to recruit three new roles: a Macmillan nurse facilitator, a Macmillan engagement officer and an admin support role for the new Macmillan Supportive, Palliative and End of Life Service.

Working from within the Emergency Operations Centre at NEAS, the dedicated Macmillan team will be tasked with equipping ambulance staff with the specialist skills necessary to support terminally ill patients, and the people around them, whether that be on an emergency 999 call, a NHS111 call or as part of a scheduled ambulance transport service.

They will also work with other healthcare and social care providers throughout the North East to ensure patients’ care plans are fed into the system so their wishes can be respected throughout the process.

As well as providing better patient care, it is hoped this service will mean more patients can continue to be cared for at home and prevent unnecessary admissions to hospital.

The new service expands on the work already undertaken to improve end of life services for North East patients, which has included a successful end of life transport scheme, which allows healthcare professionals to arrange transportation for patients to be able to die in a place of their choosing.

After launching the service on Monday, the NEAS Macmillan team will be spending the week touring the region’s emergency departments to introduce themselves to ambulance and hospital staff and spread the word about the new service. The week’s activities will then end with coffee mornings at the Trust’s headquarters in Newburn Riverside and its Emergency Operations Centres in Newcastle and Hebburn as part of the World’s Biggest Macmillan Coffee celebrations.

Stuart Holliday, clinical services manager at NEAS, said: “We have an ambition to deliver first class care to palliative and end of life patients and recognise the crucial part we can play in enabling people to achieve what they would consider a good death, especially in times of crisis and uncertainty.

“Although many patients at the end of their lives do not wish to die in hospital, in a time of crisis they may end up calling 999 and NHS111. Currently, they are likely to receive an ambulance due to the complexities of their conditions, which will usually result in them attending an emergency department. By introducing palliative care expertise into our service we will be able to offer a more appropriate responsive service within the community to better meet patients’ needs and wishes.”

Sarah Turnbull, who has taken up the post of Macmillan nurse facilitator, having worked as a Macmillan nurse within the community for nearly 10 years, said: “A good death doesn’t just affect the person who is at the end of their life; it has a lasting impact on their loved ones. We only have one chance to get it right.

“Our team is incredibly passionate about end of life and palliative care and we hope that by being part of this new service we can make a real difference to the lives we touch across the North East. We know that just by something as seemingly simple as ensuring details are up to date can make all the difference and have already starting to make links with providers across the North East to ensure we have accurate and up to date information on our systems.

“We’ll also be looking at providing additional training for NEAS staff on the frontline in the community and within our Emergency Operations Centre to ensure they feel equipped to provide the best support possible to these types of patients.”

Tina Thompson, Macmillan partnership manager in the North East, said: “End of life care is a major issue and it’s something Macmillan has campaigned about and called on the government to make a priority. Our research has highlighted numerous issues around the UK, such as people with cancer not being able to die at home, or not receiving adequate pain relief. These problems can be addressed when staff are given specialist care skills to provide excellent support for people at the end of their lives, and those around them. We’re really pleased to have linked up with the North East Ambulance Service and are confident this work will make a huge difference to people with cancer.”

Money from Macmillan used to fund the new staff at the North East Ambulance Service has been raised thanks to donations from the public. To get involved with fundraising for Macmillan in the North East, call Macmillan’s supporter care hub on 0300 1000 200 or email fundraising@macmillan.org.uk

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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