Stage four lung cancer patient praises Hammersmith & Fulham Link Workers for crucial support: “Knowing I can always contact someone about a problem is like having a second heart’
A health and wellbeing service in Hammersmith and Fulham has been praised for the its work supporting local residents with long-term health concerns, including cancer.
The service features in a new video created in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support and the Hammersmith and Fulham GP Federation, which highlights the huge difference the 13 link workers make by addressing patients’ non-medical needs.
The service supports local residents with long-term conditions, including cancer, that can affect people’s lives in many ways, from family problems to feeling lonely and work-related issues. The link workers 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.
The long-term aim is to introduce and ‘link’ patients to community groups, activities and support services, which will help them make friends, engage in social activities, develop new skills and get involved in their local community.
Hammersmith and Fulham Link Worker Wioletta features in the video and has been supporting her patient Michal for several months
Wioletta says: “When a patient is having a difficult or emotional time, I’m there when they need support. I help with booking appointments for example or arranging transport to hospital.”
“Michal is always so grateful for the help, and this makes me feel happy and fulfilled – to know I can make a difference means so much.”
Michal, 63 from south-west London adds: “Wioletta has helped me so much. To know that kind people are around you really helps and knowing I can always contact someone about a problem is like having a second heart – she is an angel.”
Macmillan Cancer Support invested over £292,000 into the service, which is free and available to all adult residents with a general practice referral, to help people cope with all the ways a cancer diagnosis can affect them.
Macmillan also provided cancer training to all of the link workers so they can feel confident supporting people with cancer and are familiar with local and Macmillan services available for those affected.
Former Hammersmith and Fulham Macmillan GP Abhijit Gill, who worked closely on setting up the project, says: “Cancer can affect every part of someone’s life, not just physically but emotionally and financially too. It can be difficult sometimes because you don’t always know where you can turn for help and support.”
“Patients are people – they have lots of non-medical needs as a result of a cancer diagnosis and it can feel lonely when you’re discharged from hospital. That’s where the Hammersmith and Fulham Links Service really comes in as there’s a big cross over between physical and mental health.”
“The service is great for me as a GP because I know the service is there to refer my patients to, and they’ll be seen by a link worker and have a proper assessment, called a Holistic Needs Assessment, which addresses wellbeing concerns.”
Yvonne Beadle, Macmillan Cancer Support Partnership Manager for North West London, adds: “It’s a sad fact that one in two of us will receive a cancer diagnosis during our lifetime. One of Macmillan’s primary aims is to ensure every person diagnosed with cancer receives access to services that provides personalised wellbeing support addressing the practical, emotional and physical needs – and the Hammersmith and Fulham Links Service provides just that.”
Helen Poole, Director of Integration for the Hammersmith and Fulham GP Federation, says: “The links service provides support for people beyond their immediate medical needs, working with people on a one-on-one basis and signposting them to additional support, such as befriending services, and wider local authority and voluntary/community organisations. I’ve been so impressed by the determination and dedication of the link workers.”
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.