Every cancer patient guaranteed support worker

£18m partnership between government and charity aims to give patients diagnosed with disease emotional, practical and financial advice

Friday 23rd August 2019

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has today pledged every cancer patient in Scotland will get a guaranteed support worker from 2023.

Scots diagnosed with the disease will be offered emotional, practical and financial advice on topics from counselling to benefits as part of the £18m partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support.

Ms Sturgeon announced the initiative today on a visit to the Beatson cancer centre in Glasgow.

As well as reducing stress among patients, it is hoped the changes will help take the pressure off hospital staff so they can focus on medical care.

Pamela Harrower, 37, from Dunfermline in Fife, was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2018 and received support from Macmillan under a trial project.

She said: “My medical team were fantastic and during treatment I was so focused on getting through it that I didn’t have time to think about anything else. However, once treatment 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.

“My support worker Sharon talked through everything with me which was such a relief. It felt like the first time I had properly talked about it all. She broke down all our needs and addressed each of them, from money worries to fitness and my mental health.

“My husband had to take time off work when I was going through treatment so we were struggling financially but Sharon managed to get us benefits we were entitled to which took off a lot of pressure. Having money worries should be the last thing during the most worrying time of your life. We are truly grateful for Macmillan’s support in one of our worst times, helping us move forward and live again.”

Janice Preston, Head of Macmillan Services in Scotland, said: “Cancer doesn’t just affect people physically, it can hit every aspect of life. Too often people don’t know where to turn for help.

“Medical professionals do all they can, but they just don’t have the time or knowledge to support people properly with problems like not being able to afford to pay their rent, or find the energy to make themselves meals.

“Macmillan has been testing the effect of offering one-to-one support from diagnosis onwards.

“The impact it has had in Glasgow and other areas in the country has been incredible. We’re delighted to be partnering with the Scottish Government to spread this support across Scotland as quickly as possible.

“Our ambition is to have it available to every cancer patient in Scotland within four years, making Scotland the first place in the UK where everyone with cancer will be guaranteed assessment and tailored care from diagnosis onwards.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “Dealing with the physical and emotional impact of cancer is traumatic enough without having to cope with the stress it places on other aspects of daily life for individuals and their families. 

“This £18m partnership will make Scotland the first country in the UK where cancer patients will have access to dedicated practical, financial and emotional help.

“The programme will help fulfil the Scottish Government’s ambitions to ensure everyone with cancer is offered a personal care plan and access to the support they need, making it easier for people to continue their personal and professional lives for as long as possible whilst under-going cancer treatment.”