The ‘Macmillan Advice and Guidance Service’ (MAGS) at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust is celebrating, after securing additional funding from the Trust, which will enable the team to continue to provide vital support to local cancer patients.

The service, which was initially set-up with £368,000 of funding from Macmillan Cancer Support, helps Trust patients access the information and support they need – in just one telephone call. Having one point of contact, accessible by phone 5 days a week, improves patients’ access to important appointment and treatment information, which in turn eases some of the anxieties or worries that cancer patients may be experiencing.

The team is also able to help with a wide range of non-clinical questions and signpost to other useful services, that can help people with cancer live life more fully.

And crucially, MAGS is helping to reduce the admin workloads of the busy cancer nursing team, which is hugely beneficial for both staff and patients.

Gynae Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist, Saran Sylla, explained how MAGS is making a real difference for the Trust’s cancer nurses and patients alike:

“The impact of the MAGS has been amazing! It saves us nurses valuable time, so we can concentrate on the all-important task of caring for our patients, rather than admin. As a result, the patient’s experience has also improved significantly – I can rely on my MAGS colleagues to provide callers with the correct information in a timely manner and often with no need to escalate to the Clinical Nurse Specialists.

“MAGS is a friendly and responsive point of contact. It’s a huge relief to no longer have to worry about the large volume of telephone enquiries – awaiting a response from me – at the end of a busy shift. MAGS can reassure my patients when I’m not available.

“It’s reduced stress for both the clinical staff and the people we are treating. It is so good to know that you have someone proactive and supportive you can count on. And I’m sure the patients appreciate them as much as we do!”

One patient, who wished to remain anonymous, explained how MAGS had helped them in the past and, crucially, during the Covid-19 pandemic:

“In the past, when I wanted to get in touch with my nurse, most of the time I would just get voicemail – my CNS was always wonderful, but so incredibly busy and rushed off her feet. But now with the MAGS team, you always get a human being on the other end of the line and that is so important, particularly when you are going through this horrendous journey.

“At times it’s as simple as that, speaking to someone – a kind and welcoming voice. It is a very lonely place when you get diagnosed with cancer.

“When you phone MAGS, you’re speaking to a professional who – unfortunately – deals with cancer day in and day out. They are experts. They can allay that anxiety. They understand. It’s a priceless service.

“Last year, as if we all didn’t have enough to deal with what with lockdown and Covid, I had a little bit of a scare. I became anxious that I’d found another lump at the original tumour site. I tried to reassure myself that I could get it checked-out at my upcoming breast clinic appointments. But then the appointments got cancelled due to Covid. I didn’t know what to do. I called MAGS several times and they were still there, listening to me.

“Personally, I don’t know what I would have done if the MAGS Team hadn’t been there. Voices that were familiar to me, it brought me comfort. These people have supported me throughout.”

Available by phone, the MAGS Team answers questions about appointments, including rescheduling. They provide advice on a wide range of non-clinical issues, such as financial worries and emotional support, or can signpost to useful local services. They also work with the patient’s Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) and other hospital teams to ensure a more seamless service.

Ada Howie, Team Lead for the Macmillan Advice and Guidance Service, explained how the team has been helping people despite the pandemic:

“Although the service is very busy and in-demand, MAGS has always focussed on providing excellent support for our patients; we continue to champion one of the Trust‘s key priorities – putting patients at the heart of everything we do!

“We’re all delighted that Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Trust has agreed to pick-up the future funding of this service, after Macmillan’s initial investment. It means MAGS can continue to provide vital support for patients. This need has become even more obvious since the start of the COVID pandemic and the added pressure on our healthcare professionals. MAGS is here for cancer patients and their relatives – from the anxiety of attending hospital for treatment and queries about appointments. To signposting them to get help during isolation and lockdown.”

Stephanie Hall, Macmillan Partnership Manager for South East London said:

“It’s great to hear about the hugely positive impact that the Macmillan Advice and Guidance Service has had since its launch. During these unprecedented times, the MAGS team has made a meaningful difference to both in demand nurses and cancer patients alike.

“Macmillan was able to contribute £368,000 towards the set-up of this team; made possible thanks to the generosity of our amazing supporters. We’ll do whatever it takes to help people with cancer, but we can only continue to fund new services like this one with the help of everyone.”

MAGS is a partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust. It is a phone-based service providing physical, financial and emotional support for cancer patients receiving treatment within the Trust, as well as guidance for carers, family and friends. If you’re a patient at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, you can call the MAGS Team on: 0208 333 3336, Mondays to Fridays, from 9am to 5pm. You can also contact MAGS by email: