Two GPs and a specialist nurse are to help spearhead the campaign to improve cancer survival rates in southern Staffordshire.

They will also play a leading role for improving the way patients with cancer and nearing the end of their life are supported and cared for.

Dr Joanna Harley and Dr Murray Campbell are to become Macmillan GP Facilitators, while Sarah Gorton has become Macmillan Nurse Facilitator. The roles are funded by Macmillan Cancer Support for the next two years.

Their role will be to help and support other GPs and practices throughout the area using their specialist knowledge, and to identify where improvements can be made. They will also advise the area’s three NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups.

Sarah Gorton, who has been a specialist nurse with Macmillan Cancer Support for two years and was previously a District Nurse working in East Staffordshire and a Public Health nurse.

Sarah said: “I am absolutely committed to improving the outcomes and patient experience for those living with cancer and at the end of life. We want to raise awareness among local medical professionals and the public about the levels of support there are for any patients affected by cancer.”

This includes:

  • Patients who have recently received a diagnosis of cancer
  • Patients  who have been living with cancer for a long time
  • Patients who are approaching the end of their lives
  • People living with and beyond cancer

Sarah said: “Cancer can affect many aspects of a patient’s  life. It is not just about treating the illness.

“We talk a lot about “survivorship” as many people are now able to survive with cancer for very many years and they need support beyond treatment. For instance there is financial support available for people who are having difficulty remaining in work or who have had to take a break from work and are struggling with bills and their mortgage. These pressures add to the impact of the illness and affect family members.

“Even patients who have been given the all-clear still need support as there may be long-term consequences of the treatment they have received.

“We also need to ensure that patients who are reaching the end of their life are treated with dignity and are able to have their wishes for remainder of their life respected wherever possible.”

Spokesperson for the CCGs said: “We are working together to identify how we can improve cancer survival rates but also to provide the very best support possible for those patients who are receiving on-going treatment or nearing the end of their lives. Our new Macmillan GP Facilitators will play a leading role in this.

“Cancer is one of the biggest causes of death in South Staffordshire. Although we have made year on year improvements in survival rates we are still below the national rate and this needs to change against a backdrop of increasing cancer cases and limited NHS resources.

“To make real improvements for patients at the end of their life it is recognised that individuals and their loved ones need to be involved in deciding how they receive care, and the system needs to work for them.”

Dr Campbell has been a GP in Staffordshire for around 30 years, working in practices in Great Wyrley , Norton Canes , Chadsmoor and now as a part-time GP at Alderwood medical practice, Cannock. He has also been a member of the Governing Body of Cannock Chase CCG.

Dr Harley is a GP at Westgate Practice in Lichfield and has a diploma in palliative care for patients approaching the end of their lives.

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