Breast cancer patients at Yeovil Hospital have access to a new Facebook patient group to help them access support from the Yeovil Hospital team despite COVID-19 restrictions.

From March 2020, many face-to-face appointments within the hospital have changed and moved online or over the phone. This has been complicated for those roles that rely on personal interactions to offer support.  

Cancer Support Worker Kelly Brown and her team have had to find different ways of running their regular breast cancer support groups, including calling patients on the phone. Kelly said: “We recognised that during the pandemic, more than ever, patients need support. This is especially true for those who had to shield. The support we give and the range of things we can help with is varied but trying to explain the support available over the phone has been a challenge.”

One of the most significant concerns the team faced was supporting those who were experiencing hair loss through chemotherapy. Unfortunately, wig-fitting appointments and the scalp cooling normally offered to help retain hair during treatment was put on hold.

However, Kelly made contact with a charity called Cancer Hair Care, who offered free packs for those undergoing treatment containing false eyelashes and fringes to help give patients their confidence back.

Kelly added: “It was essential that as the situation evolved, we found new ways to provide support and give confidence to our patients. Receiving the donation from Cancer Hair Care made such a difference to so many patients who were feeling low. We also started using WebEx video calls as a way of contacting the patients on a personal level; although it became clear that we were missing more than a few faces. Our patients wanted the group atmosphere and the opportunity to bond with the other patients going through similar experiences and facing similar challenges.”

To help create an inclusive group feeling, the team has set up a private Facebook group created specifically for current patients to access support and advice when they need it. Having spoken to patients and listened to them, Facebook was chosen as a familiar platform where individuals on their breast cancer journey can engage with others.

Providing a positive patient experience is priority for all staff at Yeovil Hospital, and the Cancer Support Team is no exception. The team is developing the hospital’s breast cancer website page aimed at patients under our care, as well as their relatives. The page will provid educational videos on subjects such as effects of treatment, breast self-examination, and how to access financial support. The videos will provide access to information and support, without having to wait for their next phone appointment, although the team can be contacted by patients outside their booked calls.

Breast Care Consultant Caroline Osborne said: “We strive to provide the best care for our patients. Currently our breast cancer care services are spread across the hospital with no one department, which means patients have to move around the hospital and undress in multiple locations. Prior to the pandemic, we had launched our Breast Care Unit Appeal to change this and we are delighted that so many of you have continued to support this fantastic cause. A new unit will make a huge difference to so many patients and the staff caring for them.

“So far we have raised a phenomenal £1,584,650 with less than £500,000 to go to meet our target. Thank you from us all!”

To see how we are trying to improve our Breast Cancer service and raise the £2million to develop a dedicated unit where patients can have a biopsy, a mammogram, an ultrasound and a consultation all in one place, click the link here

If you have any questions please contact our team on cancersupportworker@ydh.nhs.uk or phone 01935 606481.

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