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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Llangollen patient's concerns about future of specialist cancer nurse


* Cancer nurse concerns: Sarah Marshall.

A Llangollen woman is one of five patients who have written to the region’s health boss outlining their concerns about the future of a specialist breast cancer nurse based at Wrexham Maelor Hospital. 

Sarah Marshall, who has incurable form of the disease, has joined with four others to write to Caroline Shillabeer, chief executive of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), telling her they believe the specialist metastatic breast cancer nurse post in Wrexham will not be funded beyond next month.

They say in the letter: “In order to provide equity across the health board and indeed Wales and the UK, funding needs to urgently be identified to continue this post.”

Sarah has been a breast cancer patient at Wrexham since 2017 and since 2019 has been treated for metastatic breast cancer, which is incurable.

But for most of that time she hasn’t been too unwell and has managed to do an MSc, run for county councillor, do the Llangollen Round Challenge and choreograph local Operatic shows.

She said: “In that whole time I've never had a named nurse contact until they appointed a specialist nurse post in 2022. However, that nurse went off sick fairly quickly, then left the post and it was then covered by an internal secondment which is not funded past March 2024.” 

In their joint letter to the heath board chief she and the other patients say: “We would be devastated if the nurse’s hard work was being undone by the role not continuing in North Wales. 

“We are also very concerned that the Trust’s decision to combine the role with support for stage four bowel cancer patients makes it an unachievable workload, which contributed to the original post-holder leaving the role after a few months.

“Given that the post has been filled for at least a year now we would expect there is data available now on the number of metastatic breast cancer patients who have been supported by the role. 

"To now leave these patients without specialist support is shocking to us. Some of us are at end of life or have very limited clinical treatment options available.”

Sarah added: “The Trust emphasised that the metastatic post was part of their efforts to provide a good service, even though they had decided to combine the workload with supporting stage four bowel cancer patients, which makes it a huge remit.

“It's hard enough dealing with the incurable cancer and the treatment effects without having an inefficient and substandard service.

“Currently I'm on a clinical trial at Christies Hospital in Manchester.

“Wrexham don't run any clinical trials so I had to find a supportive oncologist to refer me there. The difference in the service is astounding.

“When my time on the trial ends I will likely have to return to Wrexham, and I'm dreading it. I don't understand how it is fair to have such a different service just because of where you live.”

Angela Wood, Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery at BCUHB, said: “The views and experiences of our patients and service users play an important part in helping us to ensure we provide the services they need so we are grateful for this, and any feedback we receive.

“We recognise the benefits this important role has played in supporting patients across the Wrexham area and understand the concerns that have been raised.

“The NHS as a whole currently faces significant financial challenges, which means careful consideration must be given to all available resources across a range of services. This is one of a number of vacancies currently being reviewed and once a decision is made we will provide further information.”

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