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Breast nurses nominated for Royal College of Nursing Institute award

Pictured: Helen Francis (left) and Julie Boulton (right)

Two of UHNM’s advanced nurse practitioners have been nominated for a prestigious RCNi (Royal College of Nursing Institute) award. Helen Francis and Julie Boulton work in the breast clinic at UHNM and recently launched a new care pathway for patients with breast cancer. They have been nominated in the ‘Advanced Nurse Practitioner’ category, an accolade which comes during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

One year ago, UHNM launched a new care pathway for breast cancer patients with funding from the West Midlands Cancer Alliance. The self-managed approach means that when a patient has completed their treatment and has been assessed as being "clinically stable", they are supported to manage their recovery without visiting hospital. Now, thanks to this new system, patients are feeling reassured and more in control of their cancer diagnosis.

Since launching 12 months ago more than 330 patients have joined the self-managed pathway. The effort to help patients to start on the pathway has continued at full capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic, with telephone and video consultations replacing face-to-face appointments.

Michelle Rhodes, Chief Nurse, said: “Our ANPs are absolutely dedicated to making things as good and as easy as possible for people diagnosed with breast cancer and they have done a fantastic job in setting up the self-managed pathway. It means that patients now feel more in control of their care, and we know that this will help to lower levels of anxiety and just make things feel a bit more manageable for people. Helen and Julie have worked incredibly hard to put this new system in place. Change rarely comes easily, but their determination and drive has seen the project through and now means that patients will receive even better care at UHNM.”

Helen Francis, Breast Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) at UHNM, said: "All of the patients on the new pathway have commented on the extent of support they’ve been given to continue their recovery. Without exception we have had very positive feedback from patients and their families. One patient in particular said they thought the idea was fantastic because they had been afforded the time to reflect on what has happened to them and they also appreciated that they would only have to come back to hospital when they actually needed to.”

In the past, all patients treated for breast cancer were placed on standard follow-up pathways which required visits to hospital every six to twelve months. This new method seeks to save the patient time away from employment, social or family activities and also makes better use of clinical skills and resource by freeing up seven consultant follow-up appointments for every patient placed on the pathway.

Patients join the pathway only after a detailed discussion with Advanced Nurse Practitioners who work as champions of the self-managed pathways. Each patient is given advice on signs and symptoms to watch for, a dedicated helpline number, a calendar of health and wellbeing events and links to a network of local and national support groups.

Winners of the awards are due to be announced later in the year.