Expansion of cancer support service to help people navigate their cancer journey

1st August 2022

From today (1 August), twelve Cancer Care Navigators will be based in the three acute hospitals in our area working alongside Clinical Nurse Specialists to help and support people affected by cancer with their non-clinical needs.

Cancer Care Navigators will work in collaboration with cancer clinical nurse specialists and existing supporting teams to ensure people receive practical and emotional support throughout and beyond their cancer diagnosis.

The teams are jointly funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and NHS Norfolk and Waveney to ensure that every person affected by cancer can access support, which might not necessarily be related to their medical care.

The aim is to ensure that patients receive holistic support throughout their cancer journey. This could include signposting to services which may provide advice on how to talk to family members about cancer, financial and employment advice. The initial conversation also gives those affected by cancer, the time and space to raise any non-clinical concerns or questions they might have.

Jo Pawlett, Cancer Care Navigator at James Paget University Hospital, can appreciate the value of the service more than most, having been reluctant to bother her nurse after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010: “After my initial ‘breaking bad news’ appointment, I felt very alone and scared. The days following were tough, I was worried about what I should tell my daughters, what I should tell my employer, how long I would be off work for, what I would be able to do after my operation.

“I experienced my first panic attack during this time and had no idea why my body was reacting like this. I would have loved to just have been able to call someone and tell them how I was feeling and share what was happening to me.

“After all my treatment had finished, I really wanted to help others going through a cancer diagnosis, using my experience to help make improvements for them.”

For those who want it, patients can contact the navigators as they progress through treatment and beyond, pointing them towards specialist advice and local support services as their needs change.

A ‘navigator’ is one of a series of healthcare professionals, along with cancer support workers and social prescribers, who complement the work of specialist cancer nurses by helping to coordinate a patient’s all-round care.

Rachel Casey, Macmillan Personalised Care Lead at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “We are thrilled to be launching this new service to provide additional support to the more than 6,000 patients who are diagnosed with cancer at our hospital every year. It is important that we empower our patients during a difficult time to seek support and information on issues that matter most to them.

James Paget University Hospital have had the Navigators in place since February 2022, Queen Elizabeth Hospital since April 2022, and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital from today.

Paula Bennett is the Project Manager for Personalised Care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn and explained that the navigators have already made significant impact with people using cancer services at the since they started operationally in April.

“In the short time the navigators have been in post initial contact to offer non-clinical support has been made to more than 200 people who have been referred to the navigator team by our Clinical Nurse Specialists.

“Not every person with cancer needs or wishes to have contact with a navigator, but for those who do, our navigators provide an empathetic listening ear five days a week, offering help and support when needed, at whatever stage of their cancer journey.” 

Maggie Tween, NHS Norfolk and Waveney Cancer Programme Manager said: “We are very pleased to see this support now in place at all of our local acute hospitals in Norfolk and Waveney, so no matter where you live, people affected by cancer, their carers, and companions, will have access to the navigators.

“The team can help patients access the wide range of support on offer from voluntary and community organisations, county council services and signpost to other NHS care, showing the value of working together as a joined-up system.”

Emma Tingley, Macmillan’s Head of Partnerships for London and the South East said: “Navigator roles, such as these, are so important in providing comprehensive support to people living with cancer. The teams are going to make such a difference to the lives of so many people affected by cancer.”

The Cancer Care Navigators can be contacted using the following numbers:

James Paget University Hospital – 01493 452 783

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Kings Lynn – 01553 214 610

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals – 01603 647 175