West Essex closing the gap in cancer care this February

NHS West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is ‘amplifying the patient voice’ this World Cancer Day.

The annual awareness day on Friday 4 February, focuses on cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. With a theme this year to ‘close the gap’, the campaign also reminds us of the role we can play to reduce the impact of cancer for not ourselves, but others too.

The CCG has been working with partners and patients to help share patients’ experiences to support others who have been diagnosed with or are receiving treatment for cancer.

How west Essex patients are supporting others on their cancer journey…

Colleagues from The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust and the CCG have teamed up to develop a cancer lead campaign, “One Step at a Time”.

Initially launched in 2020, the initiative is headed up by Shahid Sardar, Associate Director Patient Engagement & Experience, Ann Nutt, Chair of the Patient Panel and Emma Harnett, Macmillan Primary Care Nurse Facilitator. The team have a wealth of experience in cancer patient engagement.

Through their work with cancer patient panels, they could see the benefits patients gained from sharing their journeys with one another. The team wanted to create a platform that would allow more stories to be shared with a wider audience. This work led to the creation of “One Step at a Time”.

The value of lived experiences became the main catalyst for a series of innovative cancer support videos, created by patients for patients. Each of the short films provides a frank and candid account of a personal cancer journey, told in their own words.

Emma Harnett explains: “Until you experience cancer for yourself, it’s hard to imagine what it might be like. Our videos aim to ease the burden of a cancer diagnosis on patients and their loved ones. Patients spoke candidly about what it felt like to receive a cancer diagnosis, how they told their friends and family, receiving treatment during the COVID pandemic and what it’s like to care for someone with cancer. But above all, we recognise that it’s okay not to be okay, and sometimes you just need to take one step at a time”.

A positive response to their initial work led to the launch of a new cancer conference, which took place in Harlow in September 2021. Attended by over 100 participants, the event delivered live presentations from cancer clinicians and patients, interactive workshops, as well as pop-up stalls from local cancer support services, such as Macmillan, Helen Rollason and Look Good Feel Better. Patient feedback received during the conference will now help to shape some of the new cancer support content and services currently in development. Already in the pipeline are a series of new patient videos due to launch in the spring.

Echoing this year’s World Cancer Day campaign, closing the gap in health inequalities has been central to this work. Funded by the Cancer Alliance, the team has produced their core support video in six languages, and plan to continue addressing health inequalities in future campaigns.

The current videos and information on the recent cancer conference can be viewed here.