As Macmillan Cancer Support gears up for its biggest fund-raising event of the year, we take a look at the role of a cancer care community support worker.
Julie Summers loves her job, visiting visit people with cancer in their homes across Fleetwood, Fylde and Wyre.
She is based in the District Nurses office in Fleetwood, as well as the Macmillan Centre for Information and Support at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, where the rest of her team are based.
She provides patients with a range of support varying from emotional, if they have feelings of loneliness or isolation, right through to financial, which can involve her signposting people to access benefits or arrange Macmillan grants.
She said: “My role is funded by a partnership between Blackpool Teaching Hospitals and Macmillan and is a two-year pilot scheme.
“It was initially created to signpost to services but now it goes beyond that.
“I regularly visit patients who have no family or friends so it becomes very personal. I have helped coordinate wills, liaised with landlords and when the time came, even assisted with funeral arrangements. It can be extremely sad but it is a privilege when a patient trusts you with something so important.
“Every person with cancer has different types of needs and one of the best things about being a Macmillan professional is that I have a great network of people to provide this specific support. I work within a fantastic team to raise awareness of Macmillan services to patients and staff in hospital, as well out in the community.
"For example, we have a patient handover every day at the District Nurses office in Fleetwood. If there are no patients booked in, I do ward rounds at Victoria Hospital to raise awareness of Macmillan services. It’s great to have a physical presence and through this and other ways, we have raised awareness of our services and have increased patient contact by 60 per cent.
“I also attend monthly meetings at the three Fleetwood GP surgeries to discuss cancer patients and their needs and I am part of a wider team with Trinity Hospice nurses, clinical nurse specialists, enhanced primary care support workers, employment services and Blackpool Carers Centre.
“I bring cancer patients together through our support groups. There is Walk in the Park, in Stanley Park; complimentary therapies and relaxation classes at Richmond House holistic therapy centre every two weeks and The Grange offers patients and families the chance to come together to do gardening once a month.
"We also have two new social groups: a Blackpool Cancer Choir and a craft group.
"I also work closely with Fleetwood Library and Healthier Fleetwood who offer other support groups, including the Men’s Shed which is for men to access support.
“My role is to provide a listening ear to patients and I’m always on the end of the phone whenever they need me. It’s not a nine to five job but that’s what I love about it.”
Macmillan is celebrating 10 years of partnership with Marks and Spencer this month. The Blackpool store, in Church Street, has installed a Wall of Support, with inspirational messages and stories and there will be fund-raising events next Friday, September 27, to mark the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning.