Last year Tessa Watts described what she was learning from her first experience as a peer volunteer advocate with Dorset Macmillan Advocacy. Since then Tessa has supported several more advocacy partners but she has also continued to develop her skills with two other related roles. Tessa described her studies and her interest in health coaching at interview so when opportunities arose we ensured that Tessa heard about them. As a result Tessa is now a trained lay facilitator with the Macmillan HOPE course. HOPE (Helping to Overcome Problems Effectively) is a licensed programme developed by Coventry University and Macmillan Cancer Support to help people who have had/or have cancer to get on with their lives. More recently Tessa has begun a part time role at Help and Care as a Health Coach with My Health My Way which provides personalised support to people with long term conditions.
Through her initial link with us Tessa is now involved in three different approaches to self management; independent advocacy, group peer support and one to one coaching. Tessa says, ‘I decided to volunteer with Dorset Macmillan Advocacy because I believe I have the skills to support people during difficult times. When the coaching opportunity arose it felt like a very natural next step to use these skills so support people with long term health conditions.’
NHS Health Education England has a consultation open at the moment on a new volunteering strategy. It is aimed at developing the future workforce and focuses on bringing young people into Health and Social care. I think it’s a great idea and particularly like the emphasis on removing inequalities in volunteering but it did make me think of Tessa and how volunteering has been a way for her to kick-start a new career to which she brings her wealth of accumulated knowledge and experience. Tessa agreed, ‘I had no idea that volunteering would open up a new world for me. I am enjoying the work immensely and I feel like it does make a difference.’
In today’s post we hear about a well spent Summer’s day in Northumberland….
On Wednesday 30th August, Age UK Northumberland enjoyed a sunny day in the Sanderson Arcade in Morpeth promoting their Macmillan funded cancer advocacy project.
The Sanderson Arcade is a smart shopping centre in the heart of a beautiful market town in Northumberland. With a population of over 16,000 Morpeth is particularly busy on a Wednesday which is a market day with people visiting from all over the county.
From the moment the gazebo was erected until the end of the day visitors to the stand were frequent. Lunch time was particularly busy. With a key position next to the entrance to Marks and Spencer in the middle of the thoroughfare there really was no way to avoid our presence!
Our new leaflet explaining the project was handed out to passers by, queries about our services were answered and our pens, key rings and sweets were eagerly received! One of our volunteers, an ex-cancer radiologist put up a display about radiotherapy which was particularly well received with a number of people asking questions about the process.
This was a wonderful opportunity to explain to people how Age UK Northumberland’s Cancer, Older People and Advocacy Project works and what being an advocate entails. Knowing that someone can accompany you to appointments or can help you identify benefits and allowances you may be entitled to was of particular interest to those who had or knew of someone with a cancer diagnosis.
The success of the stand was made possible by the stalwart support of our volunteers who all stayed well beyond their allocated slots. Their enthusiasm and willingness to share their knowledge and passion for the project was clearly visible. All in all, a great way to spend a summer’s day!
Volunteer Coordinator – AGE UK Northumberland Cancer Advocacy Project
The Dorset Macmillan Advocacy steering group (Cancer in Older People Development Group) met at Lewis Manning Hospice on a sunny day in Spring with the usual packed agenda.
A key discussion topic was how learning from the advocacy services can feed in to local service improvement. We noted how the team of peer advocates from Getting Heard in Oxfordshire had produced a report with suggestions which had been well received by the local Trust.
There were plenty of informed contributors: Tracy Street, Macmillan Engagement Coordinator for Dorset attended to lead the discussion on user involvement (Tracy had been responsible for patient involvement at the Dorset Cancer Network); Paula Bull who has joined the steering group has been a part of the Dorset Cancer Patient group for many years; Lynn Cherrett, Lead Cancer Nurse at Poole Hospital is working closely with the new Dorset Cancer Partnership (DCP) (the local Cancer Alliance). Together with the DCP chair Lynn is working to create a new Dorset Cancer Patient Experience Group.
Informal discussions after the meeting Front L to R Julie Cook, Acute Oncology Nurse, Dorset County Hospital, Rachael Brastock, Macmillan Psychological Support Lead, Genevieve Holmes, Macmillan Coordinator/ Senior Advocate for Dorset Macmillan Advocacy at Dorset Advocacy, Cait Allen, CEO Wessex Cancer Trust Back L to R Graham Willetts and Charles Campion-Smith
It was agreed that the advocacy service will have a part to play in future local cancer service improvement. People affected by cancer (patients and carers) are steering the service, delivering the service and benefiting from the service. They have unique insight into how people in Dorset are experiencing the current cancer care pathways which can be usefully added to the views of trained patient representatives.
Bob Smith, peer volunteer advocate and Paula Bull
The group also welcomed Cait Allen, Chief Executive of regional charity Wessex Cancer Trust as a guest. Cait gave an update on the development of services in Dorset including the Bournemouth Cancer Support Centre which offers drop in support.
Kath Curley of Cancer, Older People and Advocacy delivery partner Beth Johnson Foundation and Staffs & Wolves Cancer Advocacy and Support Project Manager shares a post recently published on their own project blog. She tells us about her attendance at a recent conference marking Dying Matters Week:
Dying Matters Week in Staffordshire was celebrated by a Palliative and End of Life Conference organised by University Hospitals of North Midlands on Thursday 11th May. The Conference was entitled “I didn’t want that: Why patients’ wishes matter” and was attended by over 250 delegates from across the Midlands. BJF had a stand to promote the dementia and cancer advocacy projects and was therefore able to join the Conference.
The conference was packed
There were some eminent speakers including Dr Sara Russell, Head of Research and Clinical Innovation at Hospice UK, who showed a very thought provoking film from ZdoggMD; “Ain’t the way to die” which you can find here
Sara’s message was that professionals should be asking “What matters to you?” rather than “What’s the matter with you?”
Amanda Cheesley, Professional Lead Long Term Conditions and End of Life Care with the Royal College of Nursing followed on and very much reiterated Sarah’s messages. She opened by talking about the “essence” of the person – who we are, what we are – doesn’t go away when someone dies or is dying. We should look at what is important to people emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Jan Cooper, Regional Liaison Advisor at the General Medical Council discussed the End of Life/ Palliative Care Guidance. Decision making should be a partnership and this will require a change of culture. At one time professionals made the decisions, then it swung to patients making the decision but it should be co-production – joint decision after listening, discussing and sharing information.
After lunch there were two more “professionals “ presentations from Claire Henry – the Chief Executive Officer of the National Council for Palliative Care and Dr Katherine Bristowe , a post-doctoral researcher at the Cicely Saunders Institute, Kings College, London. She has a particular interest in widening access to palliative care, and recently worked on the ACCESSCare project (funded by Marie Curie), a national qualitative interview study of LGBT people facing advanced illness and bereavement.
At this Conference the best was most definitely left until the end. The Conference closed with a presentation from Tommy Whitelaw, Project Engagement Lead for Dementia Carer Voices. He was a carer for his late mother Joan for 5 years as she had vascular dementia. He told us about his beautiful mother, Joan Whitelaw, NOT the disruptive lady in bed 6! He talked about his experiences with health professionals during his time as a carer and the importance of reassuring carers that they are doing a wonderful job.
Tommy travels across Scotland to raise awareness of the impact of dementia on families and the importance of empowering carers to carry out their difficult but vital role. Lessons to be learnt for people caring for someone with any terminal condition. There was not a dry eye in the Conference!
Joe Potts, Macmillan End of Life Care Facilitator, University Hospitals of North Midlands is to be congratulated on a stimulating, thought provoking conference – a job really well done.
Kath Curley, Staffs & Wolves Cancer Advocacy and Support Project Manager
Congratulations and well done to our cancer advocacy delivery partners who have achieved the OPAAL Quality Standards for the provision of advocacy support for older people affected by cancer. Today we find out more from Macmillan Brighton and Hove Impetus:
“Special thanks to Rebecca Turnull-Simpson, a local lawyer and one of our dedicated volunteer cancer advocates. Her time given to the quality mark audit process has enabled the hard work of our whole fantastic team to be recognised.” So says Sam Bond, Macmillan Impetus Cancer Advocacy Service Manager.
Impetus staff and volunteers with their Quality Standards certificate
The first quality mark achieved was the Advocacy Quality Performance Mark which is a national quality assessment and assurance system for providers of independent advocacy. Impetus achieved it in September 2016.
Quality standards have been awarded for the provision of specialist advocacy support for people affected by cancer. These standards set out what clients can expect and are a way of demonstrating professionalism and commitment in independent cancer advocacy service delivery. The service puts the interests of clients first, is safe and effective and promotes trust through a professional and person centred approach.
Macmillan Impetus Cancer Advocacy service is a free service funded by Macmillan. The service is provided by Brighton & Hove Impetus – a charity working to reduce isolation and improve well-being. We provide 1:1 support to people affected by cancer who are often facing challenging life situations. The service supports them to express their needs and have increased choice and control.
Do you know someone who is affected by cancer or who has a close family member affected by cancer? Impetus can provide a trained advocate who will visit them at home or in hospital, build a relationship of trust and find out what is important to them. Do you want to become a volunteer Cancer Advocate?
Please phone 01273 737888 or email email@example.com
Sam Bond, Service Manager, Macmillan Impetus Cancer Advocacy
In today’s blog post we hear from Karen Renner, volunteer coordinator at AgeUK Northumberland about a recent advocacy learning and development opportunity for volunteers and staff:
On the 28th February Age UK Northumberland hosted an advocacy training day which was funded as the result of a successful Macmillan Learning and Development Grant application.
The Cancer, Older People and Advocacy Project in Northumberland was set up by Macmillan Cancer Support and Age UK Northumberland to provide one-to-one support, help and information for people over 50 and their families affected by cancer. The programme is only available in certain parts of the country and Northumberland is fortunate to be one of these areas.
Val Ford leads the training session
Current and new cancer advocacy volunteers attended the training day as well as Age UK Northumberland staff. Val Ford, Director of Training from SEAP which is one of the leading UK advocacy agencies delivered the training. Val who was involved in both writing the original training package for the project and delivering it nationwide to front line Macmillan staff proved an excellent facilitator.
The course provided an understanding and awareness of what Independent Advocacy is and highlighted the principles which underpin good practice in advocacy. Some of the challenges that can arise with Independent Advocacy were examined and the strategies that could be used to resolve these.
A number of group activities supported the learning process including several case studies which also examined the various issues faced by older people needing advocacy assistance.
Discussion over exploring professional boundaries proved of particular interest to both existing and new volunteers. The dangers of not adhering to boundaries were examined as well as strategies to employ should a boundary be broken.
After a very thorough and engaging day, all those present felt that their knowledge of advocacy had increased. New volunteers felt they were better equipped with both the knowledge to pursue an advocacy role and the skills to maintain an independent and client led relationship. Those people already familiar with the project found the day both motivating and a useful reflection on what they had already learnt to date.
Looking to the future, the project in Northumberland continues to gather impetus. With continued investment in the training of our outstanding volunteer workforce, older people diagnosed with cancer will have the understanding and support needed to make the decisions that will guide them through their journey.
Today is International Women’s Day and the campaign theme is Be Bold for Change. Big Lottery Fund are speaking to women who have made a big change in their lives and their communities. Our volunteer peer advocates make a tremendous contribution, choosing to give their time to support their peers because they know that they can use their personal experience of cancer to make a difference to other older people’s lives.
Today we’re focusing attention on Claire’s Story, from our recent publication Time: Our Gift to You, which features volunteer peer advocates talking about why they volunteer, and what they themselves gain from their volunteering experience. Claire has used her own experience of breast cancer to support Sally, her advocacy partner who has the same diagnosis.
Claire’s volunteering story:
“Last year, I decided to volunteer as a peer advocate in Oxfordshire because I could see at first hand, as I was going through my treatment, that there were many people who were struggling to find their way through the healthcare system in our area and to access the support they needed. It seemed obvious to me that a person who has been treated for cancer is potentially in a very strong position to support another person going through the same or similar treatment and experience.
One of the older people affected by cancer that I’ve supported is Sally (not her real name). She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and was referred to Oxfordshire Advocacy by her specialist breast nurse. Sally lives alone, struggles to get out and had become very isolated and depressed. When I first met her, she talked often about the diagnosis being the “final straw” and I recognised many of the feelings that I had felt when I was first diagnosed: anger, fear, sadness, even despair.
In the first few weeks when I visited Sally at her home, we often would just talk and share experiences and I knowthat she really appreciated that someone had taken the time to sit and listen and talk. I knew that when you are first diagnosed with cancer you do get quite a long appointment slot with your consultant and your specialist nurse, but you are in a state of shock and you can’t really take things in, and you are certainly not able to talk through how you are feeling. You need lots of time to process what is happening to you and it is weeks later when you are ready to really think about what is happening to you.
Since then, I have been able to help Sally in a number of ways. For example, I contacted Breast Cancer Care, I knew how good they were from my own experience, and ordered a number of information leaflets for her – some on treatments she had been advised to have, specific information on lymphedema and some on other issues such as her benefits entitlement. Sally suffers from cataracts as well and so I made sure I ordered the information in large print so that she could read the text.
Sally had a specific issue with one of her drugs that was making her feel unwell – I recognised the issue because I had suffered something similar – so I printed some information from the Macmillan Cancer Support website. Sally doesn’t have a computer or access to the internet. I took it to her and read it through for her. I also helped her prepare some questions about this for her next GP appointment and as a result she was able to discuss the issue with her doctor and get the drug changed to minimise the side effects.
Most recently I was able to help Sally with her application for a one-off Macmillan support grant – she wanted to use the money to help with her heating oil. She had being finding it difficult to fill in the form and so she dictated to me what she wanted to say in her application and I was able to write it down for her and I could use my experience to help with the spellings of all the drugs she was taking! She said that receiving the money was very important to her as it eased her worries about putting the heating on in the winter.
I hope that I have managed to convey that working with Sally has also been very rewarding for me. Cancer treatment is often quite technical and complicated and over time you are forced to become quite an expert in the healthcare system and how to get support. I am really glad to be able to put my experience to good use.”
Read more about the inspirational volunteers who are being bold for change on behalf of and alongside their peers here
What information and support needs matter most to people affected by cancer? Today Kathleen Gillett of Dorset Macmillan Advocacy, (DMA) tells us about changing needs and a greater requirement for emotional support:
Cancer Information and Support Services (CISS) are changing – at least that is the finding of a recent study of the Macmillan CISS which has involved a partnership with the Mental Health Foundation. A workshop at last autumn’s Macmillan Professionals Conference presented the findings of research into the role of provision of information and support. Macmillan CISS services are very varied with some operated by teams of staff and volunteers in large purpose built facilities, often on hospital sites, and others provided by a single part time worker.
Dorset Macmillan GPs Dr Paul Barker and Dr Simon Pennel with Kathleen Gillett of DMA
The trend has been for people affected by cancer to be less in need of information and more in need of emotional support. A YouGov survey found that 83% of patients said that ‘being listened to’ is the most important thing. If people are seeking more emotional support how are the CISS services reflecting this change and how are the service providers (staff and volunteers) themselves enabled to give this support without a negative impact on themselves? Answers to these points continue to be developed by a working group of Information Managers within Macmillan.
Discussions during the workshop revealed a range of interpretations as to what constitutes emotional support and how to offer it. A weekly coffee morning style drop in could offer low level psychological support in the view of one participant from a community palliative care team. Ensuring that ‘all the patients have my phone number’ was seen by a nurse as being a way of providing emotional support. Another participant noted that patients with identified needs may sometimes decline a referral to psychological support because of unfamiliarity with the term and fear of the word ‘psychological’.
I made sure to explain to the participants of my discussion group the way in which peer volunteer advocacy can provide low level and ongoing emotional support. Not only can advocacy partners ventilate on occasion and be sure of being listened to but they can build a trusting relationship over time with their volunteer and know that they will not be judged as they share their worries and feelings.
Kathleen Gillett of Dorset Macmillan Advocacy (DMA) tells us about the acknowledgement that someone is needed to act as the “glue in the system”:
At the 2016 Macmillan Professionals national conference which I attended last autumn Fran Woodard, Executive Director of Policy and Impact, Macmillan Cancer Support, spoke about personal experience of cancer in her family and said that the system is impossibly difficult to navigate as treatment gets more complex and people are living with more co-morbidities. Her welcome address was about workforce. She said there is a need for a focus on coordination, navigation and support with one person who is the ‘glue in the system’.
A new role has been trialled in some parts of the country titled Macmillan Support Worker and a number of these posts will be funded by Macmillan in Dorset over the coming year. Support Workers will be based in hospital Trusts alongside clinical staff and there will be some flexibility for each Trust to define their role and which cancer pathways they will support.
During break time I spoke with Simon Philips, Executive Director of Strategy and Performance, Macmillan Cancer Support, about how the advocacy service might mesh with the new Support Worker roles in Dorset. I am hopeful that the Support Workers will have a remit to know about what support is available in the voluntary and community sector. We will offer them an opportunity to meet the peer volunteer advocates and hear directly about the difference advocacy makes to older people and carers.
Simon Philips and Kathleen Gillett attempt a selfie
Simon asked me about volunteer retention and whether we had any problems keeping volunteers. I was glad to be able to tell him that we still have on the team several of the volunteers we recruited for our pilot phase in 2012. The size of our volunteer team is growing every year because despite a few volunteers retiring or going on to other roles such as hospital governor the majority are staying because they are so passionately committed to their roles. They always arrive for their informal interview with a high level of motivation but once they are trained and ‘matched’ with an adovacy partner that motivation only increases as they see the real difference they are making to people’s lives. No two advocacy partnerships are the same and so the volunteers tackle the challenges that each new case brings with great energy. They frequently tell us of the emotional rewards that they gain from the role.
As a service we benefit enormously from retaining a team of trained peer volunteer advocates that has increasing experience. In fact at our most recent volunteer networking forum at Help and Care my colleague Jo Lee and I were completely left out of most of the discussion while new and more seasoned advocates got to grips with a case study. Could peer volunteer advocates work closely with the new Support Workers to be ‘the glue in the system’ that Fran would like to see?
Can you see peer advocates as part of the answer? Let us know what you think.
What stops health professionals signposting to services like our peer advocacy support service? In today’s post Kathleen Gillett of Dorset Macmillan Advocacy tells us what some Macmillan Health Professionals feel is the reason:
There are over 9000 Macmillan professionals working across the UK in a wide range of roles. Those of us in cancer advocacy services that are funded directly by Macmillan Cancer Support are labelled Macmillan professionals. Once a year we are invited by Macmillan to a national conference and I was fortunate to attend for the first time last autumn.
Lynda Thomas, CEO of Macmillan welcomed the 300 participants and began her keynote speech with some statistics. In 2015 Macmillan reached 5.8M people in total and Macmillan professionals supported 600,000 people.
Lynda said that in her view face to face support is the most impactful. I see the impact that our peer volunteers have every day by actually being there in person for their advocacy partner and I couldn’t agree more. She went on to say that her aim is to focus on areas of most severe need and on what makes the biggest impact. She believes that the best services and support need to be local and need to understand the needs of the local population.
The majority of Macmillan professionals are in clinical roles and this was reflected in the attendance at the conference. There were two representatives of the Cancer Older People and Advocacy projects, me and Kath Curley from Staffordshire and Wolverhampton Cancer Advocacy at the Beth Johnson Foundation as well as a number of Macmillan Welfare Benefits Advisors from across the country and the team of Support Workers at Brain Tumour Support who are funded by Macmillan.
Kath Curley, Staffs and Wolverhampton Cancer Advocacy and Kathleen Gillett, Dorset Macmillan Advocacy
Every year conference delegates are asked a number of questions and respond with live voting gadgets. The first 2016 question was ‘What is the biggest barrier to Macmillan professionals in signposting people affected by cancer to sources of support in the voluntary and community sector?’ This question appeared to be aimed at the Health professionals. The top three answers from options given were: 33% Lack of knowledge of what is available; 25% Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA) is not routinely done; and 25% Health leaders and managers don’t see it as the responsibility of Health professionals.
The question which led on from this “What would make the biggest difference to help Macmillan professionals to signpost to support?” saw 56% respond Access to clear information on what is available, how and where to signpost to; and 24% respond HNA.
I took away from this that Macmillan professionals in clinical roles want to signpost to support outside of Health but don’t yet feel that they have an easy way of finding out what support is out there and what the most appropriate time to refer would be. Those of us providing services such as peer volunteer advocacy have not always found it easy to make those working in Health aware of our service and to find opportunities to educate them to understand the benefits of advocacy and its relevance at all stages in the cancer journey. At the next conference in autumn 2017 Macmillan Cancer Support will report back to delegates on the steps it has taken to improve access to this knowledge.