Despite the uncertainty and disruption caused by Covid-19, a new health and wellbeing service in Hammersmith and Fulham has been hard at work supporting anxious local residents with long-term health concerns, including cancer.
Since April the new link workers have contacted more than 4,000 patients who may be isolating to check on them and see if they need extra support, and over the course of the year, over 1000 of those contacted have received a cancer diagnosis.
The service, for people with long term health conditions, has been launched with the help of a £272,740 funding boost from Macmillan Cancer Support to help people with the non-medical problems arising from their illness.
Long-term conditions, including cancer, can affect people’s lives in many ways, from family problems to feeling lonely to work. The link workers will arrange a time to have a personal, one to one conversation to understand the difficulties people face and put them in touch with local support groups or activities.
Macmillan Cancer Support is working in partnership with the Hammersmith and Fulham GP Federation to deliver the service, which is free and available to all adult residents who’ve been referred by their GP.
Currently operating remotely due to Covid since March, 12 link workers, including Lily Woldesemait, Nazia Khanum and Karen Honeysett (all pictured), have been connecting with patients at risk of social isolation on the phone.
Macmillan Link Worker Nazia explains: “We’re here to help anyone with long-term health conditions, like cancer, with all the worries they may be facing as a result of their illness.
“Many people can feel lonely or have problems with money or work but don’t know where to go for help. As link workers we have time for a personal, one to one conversation to really understand how best we can help people get the support they need for all the ways an illness like cancer affects their lives.
“Ordinarily we’d meet patients face-to-face but due to covid-19 this hasn’t been possible, so we’ve been learning how to adapt.
“We’ve been able to offer regular phone calls, and we’re finding people are also looking for practical support with things like essential shopping while shielding or isolating–so we’ve been phoning all cancer patients in the area, as well as contacting 4,000 elderly patients who may be isolating.
“The contact the service provides is a lifeline for a lot of people, and it’s just nice for a lot of patients to know they have someone they can call.”
Emma Tingley, Macmillan Cancer Support Strategic Partnership Manager for London, says: “The work carried out by Hammersmith and Fulham Links Service is absolutely vital, especially to those coping with social issues, such as loneliness and money worries, as a result of a long-term illness like cancer.
“For many people it is more frightening to be diagnosed with cancer now more than ever.
“That’s why we’re doing everything we can to be there for people with cancer to make sure cancer doesn’t become the forgotten ‘C’ during this pandemic – but as a charity that relies almost entirely on donations we still need the generous support of the public so we can fund essential services like this for people with cancer.”
The long-term aim is to introduce and ‘link’ patients to community groups, activities and support services which will help them make friends, engage social activities, develop new skills and get involved in their local community.
Macmillan Cancer Support have invested £292,740 to part-fund the brand new service, to help people cope with all the ways a cancer diagnosis can affect them.
This is just one example of how Macmillan – who rely almost entirely on donations – can support people living with cancer across London, thanks to the generous support of the public.
Around 210,000 people are living with cancer in London – a number that could increase to an estimated 340,000 by 2030.