A new service to ensure cancer patients are offered emotional, practical and financial support has been launched in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Cancer patients across the area can now access all the help they need by making just one phone call.

The new Lothians Macmillan Improving the Cancer Journey Service will see every newly diagnosed cancer patient in Edinburgh and the Lothians sent a letter offering a meeting with a dedicated one-to-one support worker. The worker will then help the patient access a wide range of support, from benefits advice and emotional support to help at home or with other practical needs. Anyone currently living with cancer can also access the service by simply calling the team to arrange an appointment.

The programme is part of the Scottish Government and Macmillan Cancer Support £18 million partnership which is set to make Scotland the first country in the UK where cancer patients will be guaranteed wraparound support. The Scottish Government and Macmillan Cancer Support both invested £9 million each to ensure everyone with cancer is offered emotional, practical and financial help from a dedicated support worker.

This will mean cancer care teams in hospitals no longer need to help with non-medical issues, freeing them up to provide personalised care and support to those with complex medical problems.

The move will also give them more time to support new patients – potentially helping ease waiting times pressures.

The ambition is to offer the support to every cancer patient in the country by 2023, making Scotland the first country in the UK to fulfil its promise on personalised care.

Alison Macdonald, Director of the East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, said:

“I warmly welcome the launch of this new service, in a cooperation between East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership and Macmillan Cancer Support, which will provide people living with cancer with access to a package of valuable support at a difficult time for themselves and their families.

"The effects of a cancer diagnosis can be devastating and life-changing and it is important that patients are provided with practical support beyond receiving high-quality clinical care. Through the ICJ service East Lothian patients will be able to receive help from skilled practitioners and much-needed advice on what support services are available close to home. I believe it will have a positive impact for people living with cancer.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing experience, for the patient and their loved ones. As well as focusing on providing the best diagnostic treatment, rehabilitation and palliative services, it is vital we consider the non-medical effects of the illness.

“The Improving the Cancer Journey service in Edinburgh and the Lothians is a significant milestone in our partnership with Macmillan, and moves us closer to fulfilling our ambition of ensuring everyone with cancer is offered a personal care plan and access to support, making it easier to get on with their lives while undergoing cancer treatment.”

Head of Macmillan Services in Scotland, Janice Preston, said: “Cancer doesn’t just affect people physically, it can hit every aspect of life. Too often people don’t know where to turn for help. Medical professionals do all they can, but they just don’t have the time or knowledge to support people properly with problems like not being able to afford to pay their rent or find the energy to make themselves meals.

“This new service should make sure everyone in Edinburgh and the Lothians with cancer has someone to call on for help, no matter what they need. We hope this service will transform cancer support across the region.”

“It’s thanks to the continued support from people locally, who fundraise for us and donate so generously, that we are able to fund this vital new service. With their help we are able to make a huge difference to the lives of people affected by cancer in the Lothians.”

The Transforming Cancer Care programme will help fulfil the ambition the Scottish Government set out in its cancer care plan to ensure every person with cancer is offered a personal care plan and access to integrated and coordinated support across health, social care and the third sector.

While it’s good news that advances in treatment mean that more people than ever are surviving, it also means that people living with cancer are living longer, often with long-term effects of treatment or other health conditions that have a huge impact on health, wellbeing and independence. Many of them don't know where to go for help coping with the non-medical effects of the illness.

The project is open to everyone aged 16 and over living with cancer regardless of their cancer type or where they live in the Lothians. To find out more about the Lothians Macmillan Improving the Cancer Journey service call 07977 307 286  or 07929 784315 or email loth.icj@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk 

Published: Tuesday, 9th November 2021