Increase in Patients Contacting Macmillan Support Line for Emotional Support

20 February 2020

Their analysis also revealed a much larger (20%) increase of callers who indicated that the reason for their call was concerned with emotional support around issues, such as anxiety, fear and depression. The review also indicated that callers needed support around so called “scanxiety” — anxiety related to waiting for results and treatment.

In their statement, Macmillan made clear links between this increase and what they called ‘significant pressures facing the NHS’. Nearly half (44%) Cancer Nurse Specialists reported that their workload is having a negative impact on patient care and nearly one in five people (17%) recently diagnosed with or treated for cancer saying that the healthcare professionals who cared for them seemed to have an unmanageable workload. The statement also highlighted the recent poor performance of NHS England against national cancer targets, with the last 12 months recording the lowest proportion of patients seen or treated within the timeframes of any year since records began. The support staff at Macmillan described patients’ perceptions limited time with their doctors, recognition that nurses were very busy, and that an increasing part of the nurse’s role is to fill in these gaps in emotional support that cause distress and anxiety for patients and their loved ones. Another factor that could also indicate the stresses that cancer services are experiencing was the fact the second most common reason that people affected by cancer called the support line was to describe issues with accessing hospital or community care. This includes difficulties with contacting the staff involved in their medical care either in hospital or in the community, difficulties in accessing specialist medical equipment for use at home, or support with accessing hospice services.

In a statement, Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said that ‘NHS staff do an extraordinary job faced with huge pressures, but as increased demand for [NHS] services shows, there simply aren’t enough [NHS staff] to meet the needs of the growing number of people living with cancer’. She went on to say ‘that the newly-formed government must urgently deliver on its promises to prioritise a fully-funded plan for our NHS workforce, so that everyone living with cancer can receive the very best care and support they need’.

Further information on this story can be found here