Fifers give their verdict on care after cancer diagnosis

Pamela - MacMillan Cancer Care (Pic: Tony Marsh)
Pamela - MacMillan Cancer Care (Pic: Tony Marsh)

A national survey has found cancer patients in Fife overwhelmingly had a good experience of care – but many are missing out on much-needed needed emotional, financial and practical support.

Around 5000 patients across Scotland took part in the survey carried out by the Scottish Government and Macmillan Cancer Support.

The aim was to find out how they felt about the way they were cared for and supported as they moved through the system.

Some 94 per cent of all those surveyed in Fife rated their care as positive, similar to the 95 per cent who rated their care as positive across Scotland.

And 95 per cent of respondents in Fife felt they were always treated with dignity and respect by the nurses and doctors while 86 per cent were given access to a cancer nurse specialist.

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However, the survey – the second of its kind – also found areas for improvement, with many people in Fife still missing out on emotional, practical and financial support.

Among those who wanted it, only 63 per cent felt they got enough care and support from health and social care services during treatment, and this reduced to just 50 per cent after treatment.

Only 53 per cent of people felt they had been completely supported emotionally and psychologically by healthcare professionals during treatment – the same number applied to those who wanted financial and benefits and advice were offered it.

The survey also found 23 per cent said healthcare professional didn’t give someone close to them all the information they needed to care for them at home, 26 per cent said they were only given this information to “some extent”.

Only 32 per cent of people with cancer in Fife said they had been given a care plan – despite the previous survey showing patients with one had a more positive experience of almost every aspect of cancer care.

Janice Presto, Macmillan’s head in Scotland, said: “It’s great news that people overwhelming rate their experience of care as good, and it’s positive to see there have been some areas of improvement from the first survey.

“However, it’s clear the emotional, practical and financial needs of many people are still not being met.

“It’s particularly disappointing to see most people still aren’t receiving care plans, despite the positive impact we know they have on people’s care.

“Cancer can affect every aspect of life, causing problems from debt to depression. Too many people don’t know where to turn for support and as this survey shows, they’re often not getting this information from the cancer care system.

“We know staff work extremely hard and try to do everything they can to help, but until everyone with cancer in Scotland is guaranteed a care plan and personalised support, some people and some needs will continue to fall through the cracks.”

Macmillan is urging anyone with cancer who needs help to get in touch with them via their face to face support services, online community or support line, available on 0808 808 0000.

>> One person who knows first hand how the care system works is Pamela.

The 36-year old from Fife was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2018.

She said: “I had no symptoms and was the healthiest I had felt in a while. During a caravan holiday for my son’s birthday I had forgotten my sponge so used my hand in the shower and that’s when I found a little lump that was not there before.

“My medical team were fantastic when it came to me being treated for cancer. They supplied me with lots of different leaflets and I did a lot of research myself.

“During treatment I was so focused on getting through it that I didn’t think about anything else.

“However, once it finished, I felt I needed even more support. Thankfully Macmillan had sent me a letter a couple of weeks previously so I decided to give them a call.

“We were struggling financially. I had difficulties during chemotherapy treatment so my husband had to leave work to support me and the family.

“I didn’t have life insurance, so we had to apply for benefits. After a meeting with a Macmillan benefits advisor we were advised that we were receiving a lot less than we were entitled too. They managed to sort it all out which was a huge relief. Having money worries should be the last thing during the most worrying time of your life.

“I completed a care plan with a Macmillan support officer and it was a fantastic help. It helped to break down each of our needs and all of these were addressed. From money worries to fitness and mental health. We are truly grateful for Macmillan’s support in one of our worst times.

“They helped us move forward and live again.”