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Saturday, 19 September 2020


Is cancer being sidelined as Macmillan nurses called to the NHS Covid-19 frontline?

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A leading charity is warning that cancer must not become the ‘forgotten ‘C’’ as it reveals many of its nurses are now playing vital roles in the fight against both coronavirus and cancer.

Hundreds of Macmillan Cancer Support’s renowned nurses and other healthcare professionals are being called upon to help in the fight against COVID-19, while their colleagues continue to maintain crucial care and support to those with cancer during the outbreak.

To help support their professionals and the NHS during this unprecedented crisis, the charity is investing in a £5m coronavirus response fund to address emerging needs and fund other initiatives. This could include funding additional roles like support workers to help with increased workloads or IT equipment to enable cancer patients to speak virtually to their loved ones. Macmillan is also rolling out a series of brand new virtual services ensure the 3 million people living with cancer in the UK can access the support they need, now more than ever.

This includes:

  • Cancer and coronavirus digital hub – New section on the Macmillan website full of guidance and advice for people affected by cancer and healthcare professionals. Updated regularly with the most asked questions by people with cancer, there is information about everything from coronavirus and cancer treatment to dealing with anxiety and financial support.
  • Telephone Buddies – A new volunteers telephone befriending service is being rolled out across the UK to provide a vital emotional lifeline to cancer patients in isolation to combat anxiety and loneliness.
  • Virtual ‘prehabilitation’ services to help people with cancer cope with the emotional and physical effects of cancer, including video calls and virtual workshops for patients to support their wellbeing while they isolate at home.
  • Increased support for Macmillan professionals on the frontline to help them support people with cancer in the best way possible, and look after their own wellbeing

An estimated quarter of a million people with cancer in the UK fall into the clinically vulnerable category for coronavirus and the charity is also experiencing an unprecedented surge in demand for its existing services, including thousands of additional calls to the specialist nurses on its telephone helpline. Much of this will be driven by anxiety and uncertainty as some patients see their cancer treatment changed, postponed or even cancelled due to coronavirus.

But Macmillan – which has spent more than 100 years providing practical and emotional support – says right now cancer care is more vital than ever before and must remain a priority, warning that it must not become the ‘forgotten ‘c’’ during this pandemic.

The charity has warned that urgent and essential care and treatment must be maintained in the NHS. Macmillan has said that, even in times of crisis, decisions about changes to treatment must be made with patients, based on their individual needs.

This stark caution comes as the charity, almost entirely funded by public donations, faces up to a staggering 50% drop in its income, due to the impact of coronavirus.

In response, it is launching an emergency fundraising appeal, in a bid to ensure it can continue to fund services and provide cancer care and support now and in the future. The charity is urging the public to donate whatever they can to enable Macmillan to do everything it can for people with cancer. A number of celebrities including Fearne Cotton, Johnny Vegas, Naomie Harris, Joe Lycett and Martin Clunes are backing the appeal in an emotional video which describes the anguish of living with cancer during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lynda Thomas, CEO at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:

“Our professionals are playing a critical role right now in helping to deal with this unprecedented crisis. We have a long and proud history of working shoulder to shoulder with the NHS which is why we are investing funds to help alleviate some of the strain on NHS services.

“But it is critical we don’t forget that people continue to be diagnosed with cancer each day and still need vital treatment and support. For people with cancer right now, these can be terrifying times; isolating at home, separated from loved ones and suddenly being told the treatment and surgery that had felt like their lifeline could be changed or postponed. But their cancer hasn’t. That’s still there, while they wait for answers about what their future holds.

“This is where Macmillan steps in each and every day, providing a safety net for those spiralling into despair. But at a time when our support has become more important than ever, our income faces a staggering drop, and the truth is we can’t continue to be there for all the people who need us without the support of the public. We’re doing everything we can to help people living with cancer, including the new services announced today to help address the immediate and unique challenges that having cancer during this pandemic brings. But we simply can’t make sure that no one faces cancer alone, without the public’s support. Our biggest fear is not being there for yours – please donate to Macmillan today.”

Macmillan Cancer Support and Information Centre Manager Alison Boyd has volunteered to join the NHS front line at the Nightingale Hospital, returning to her former role in nursing. She said:

“I just want to offer the same skills and compassion that we offer at the Chelwest Macmillan Centre. Families and patients will still need the same kind of understanding and care, perhaps even more so since some patients are not allowed to see their family or loved ones. So clear and kind communication will be hugely important.

“Every single person working at the Nightingale is a skilled professional in their own right. We all want to provide outstanding care, in a challenging time and colleagues from the NHS, military and ambulance services are really pulling together. We all want to do our jobs to the best of our ability, and we have the utmost respect for the patients, families, each other and for the work we are undertaking.”


Johnny Vegas, who features in the celebrity appeal film, said:

“My family and I have seen first-hand how Macmillan Cancer Support makes a world of difference to people in their darkest hours. Right now Macmillan needs all the help it can get to continue to be there for everyone who needs them and support our beloved NHS at this critical time.”

For more information on the emergency appeal, please visit www.macmillan.org.uk/emergency

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