Specialist nurses support cancer patients to spend less time in hospital  

A nurse-led service established during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic is helping cancer patients spend less time in hospital. 
 
Introduced in May 2020 by advanced nurse practitioners Eleanor Kerr and Louise Davison, the Acute Oncology Service at Ninewells Hospital aims to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions by providing proactive and preventative treatments to patients receiving radiotherapy and systemic anti-cancer therapies.  
 
There is a dedicated phone line to allow the team to assess and offer treatment to patients who are unwell from side effects. The team also assesses and manages oncology emergencies, reviews and manages the care of inpatients and outpatients and liaises with other specialities to promote person-centred holistic care.
 
Since the team began its work, there has been a reduction in hospital admissions with 80% of patients seen as a day case, a reduction in patients accessing GP services for symptom control, and shorter waiting times for patients seeking assessment and treatment.
 
Patients and the wider oncology team have given positive feedback about the service, with patients particularly pleased to stay out of hospital or attend for day treatment rather than being admitted.
 
Eleanor said, “I feel like I have brought my knowledge and skills from acute medicine and oncology to develop this role and I get a great sense of job satisfaction. I like being proactive and keeping patients safe on their cancer journey, which helps avoid delays and the rescheduling of treatments.”  
 
Louise added, “Two days are never the same in this role. I like seeing the benefits we are providing to our patients and I have really enjoyed building the service and my own professional development.”
 
The service initially had one bed in the acute medical unit at Ninewells but soon moved to Ward 32, the oncology ward, and increased to four beds. The team also expanded to include a trainee advanced nurse practitioner and three healthcare support workers, one of whom has since been inspired to start a nursing degree. The service runs from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.
 
The team hopes to grow the service further by adding more beds, expanding the team and moving to a seven-day service.

Photograph attached: Louise Davison, healthcare support worker Craig Palser and trainee advanced nurse practitioner Robyn Ferguson