Antrim cancer teams win UK-wide awards

THE Macmillan Specialist Palliative Care Team based at Antrim Area Hospital and the Northern Trust Skin Cancer Team who go above and beyond for people living with cancer have been honoured with Macmillan awards.

Both teams were awarded the Whatever It Takes Award which recognises extraordinary efforts, where individuals and teams have had to adapt, innovate, collaborate, support wellbeing initiatives, shown great resilience despite distressing situations and lead with compassion.

Their colleagues in the Northern Trust, the Cancer and Palliative Wellbeing Team, were also named as finalists in the Integration Excellence category.

This category recognises individuals and teams who have improved the coordination of services and enabled integration across settings or through digital services to provide a seamless experience for people living with cancer.

The team’s programmes included Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) pamper sessions, Fatigue Management workshops and Health & Wellbeing events (H&WB) which were all adapted to virtual resources due to COVID-19, therefore empowering patients to access support services virtually to overcome any challenges they may face.

The annual awards recognise the incredible work of Macmillan professionals across the UK and the Northern Trust teams, who were the only trust across the UK to have three finalists in the awards, were nominated by colleagues for their dedication to supporting people living with cancer in the local area.

From the outset of the pandemic, the Macmillan Specialist Palliative Care Team in the Northern Trust have shown compassion, leadership and remarkable resilience whilst striving to improve end-of-life services for patients and their families.

The team worked hard to ensure patient care was never compromised, with staff developing creative ways to provide comfort and reassurance to patients and families who struggled with restricted visiting.

Staff changing rooms were quickly transformed into meeting areas for patients with young children, and a gazebo was erected to facilitate socially distanced visits outside.

“The team were remarkable,” says Macmillan Service Lead for Palliative Care, Sally Convery.

“At a time of great uncertainty, they ensured patients were at the heart of everything they did by skilfully identifying their needs and the needs of those important to them.

“This team has shown an outstanding level of human kindness to patients, relatives and each other.”

Prior to the Covid pandemic, the Northern Trust’s Skin Cancer Team had spent five years developing an innovative service that delivered a range of holistic support to their patients.

The team ran nine face-to-face nurse-led clinics each week across a large geographical area, so when the pandemic began, they had to act quickly to adapt the service to a more virtual offering.

The Skin Cancer Team showed tremendous resilience in the face of many challenges to develop effective new ways of working.

“The vast majority of our patients were isolating, and they were lonely,” explains Michelle.

“The telephone clinic calls weren’t just about skin cancer. For them, the fact that somebody was there for them and phoning them was invaluable at that time.”

Head of Partnerships for Macmillan in Northern Ireland, Janice Preston said: “The Macmillan Excellence Awards are an annual opportunity to show our appreciation for Macmillan professionals, who work tirelessly day in day out to make a real difference for people with cancer.

“This year that work has been more vital than ever, due to the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has brought.

“We are incredibly proud of and all our professionals, and their continued commitment to going above and beyond in their work.

“Both the Specialist Palliative Care Team and the Skin Cancer Team demonstrated a hugely dynamic response to the pandemic. They both identified the needs of their patients and relatives as well as their own colleagues and made sure that they were supported throughout.”

Macmillan’s prestigious and independent awards highlight excellence across the UK and the impact of Macmillan professionals and teams who have done whatever it takes to support people living with cancer.

The awards allow Macmillan to celebrate the professionals’ unique spirit by showcasing not just what Macmillan professionals do, but how they do it.

For support, information or a chat, call Macmillan Cancer Support free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk.

The Macmillan Unit, located on the Antrim Area Hospital site, is an inpatient unit providing accommodation to care for 12 adult patients with complex specialist palliative care needs.

It provides specialist palliative care to patients with life-limiting conditions such as advanced cancer, advanced respiratory disease, Motor Neurone disease, renal failure and heart failure.

It also provides inpatient services including symptom control, rehabilitation and end-of-life care.

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