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Breast Self-Managed Pathway celebrates one year since launch

Pictured from left: Julie Boulton, Liz Lamont and Helen Francis

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. 

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.

The approach was designed and introduced with the help of Macmillan Cancer Support and a number of specialists from across the organisation, including Breast ANPs, breast surgeons, oncologists, oncology ANPs, managers and system specialists.

Helen works alongside fellow Advanced Nurse Practitioner Julie Boulton and Macmillan Cancer Navigator Liz Lamont, who tracks patients on the new pathway and helps to support them via a telephone helpline.

Mr Soni Soumian, Breast Surgeon and Clinical Lead at UHNM, said: "The redesigned pathway allows patients more freedom in managing their own recovery. Patients are supported throughout by the excellent Advanced Nurse Practitioners and navigator just a phone call away, with hospital visits minimised to help patients recuperate."

Julie and Helen have been chosen as finalists in the ANP category for the RCNi Nurse Awards 2020, with winners due to be announced later in the year.