Southend Macmillan team reassures cancer patients with offer of virtual support

As the people of Southend follow the government’s advice to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives during the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, a cancer support service is reaching out to people living with cancer with an offer of virtual support.

The Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Centre, which is based at Southend University Hospital, has had to rethink its service after face-to-face contact was ruled out during the pandemic.

The team have found safe ways to continue supporting local people affected by cancer by using telephone appointments and emails to continue many of their services.

They have also embraced video conferencing technology to stream their support group and exercise sessions directly into people’s homes, helping them to manage their physical and mental wellbeing in isolation.

Being diagnosed with cancer is frightening at any time, but now as people are facing increased uncertainty, Macmillan’s services are more important than ever. Macmillan is funded almost entirely by public donations and is facing a significant drop in income, so is urging the public to donate to enable it to continue to provide its vital support services for people living with cancer.

Friederike Englund, Macmillan Cancer Information Manager said: “Despite the incredibly difficult and uncertain situation, we knew how important it was to keep going and to be there for the people who depend on our support, now more than ever.

“‘By offering some of our sessions via video link, we’ve been able to continue providing patients with one-to-one support, group sessions and access to a yoga class specifically tailored to the needs of people living with cancer.

“Our telephone support has become a lifeline for local people living with cancer, as they are understandably anxious about how the coronavirus will affect their treatment and care. Having enough money to pay the bills and feed a family is a frequent worry for people living with cancer, but the economic impact of Covid-19 is pushing more people into a financial red zone than before.

“We can help take the weight off people’s shoulders by offering practical and emotional support, as well as benefits advice, but are also just here for a chat if everything’s getting too much.”

With patients expressing concern over possible delays to cancer treatments and referrals for diagnostic tests, the team has reacted by launching a special helpline for those who have had treatment deferred or have suspected cancer. The team can provide emotional support and practical information, as well as referrals to specialist services, and can put them in touch with clinicians if needed.

Like many of their Macmillan colleagues around the UK, the team have also found themselves working shoulder to shoulder with NHS colleagues as they divide their time between running the information service and supporting Southend families bereaved by the coronavirus crisis.

In 2019 alone, the Macmillan team responded to almost 14,000 individual queries from local people affected by cancer, helping them access the practical, emotional and financial support they needed to manage the impact of the disease.

Anyone affected by cancer in Southend or the surrounding areas, can contact the Southend Macmillan Information Centre by calling 01702 385101 (Monday-Friday, 09:00-16;00, or emailing [email protected]. The new helpline can be reached via the same number.

Find the team on Facebook by searching for ‘Southend Macmillan Information and Support’.

To donate to Macmillan Cancer Support, visit www.macmillan.org.uk/emergency or call 0300 1000 200.

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]