Published 03 February 2021

A pioneering service for people affected by cancer in West Dunbartonshire has supported more than 300 people in its first year.

Macmillan Improving the Cancer Journey (ICJ), which is a partnership between West Dunbartonshire Council and Macmillan Cancer Support, offers all newly-diagnosed adults the opportunity to meet with a dedicated support worker on a one-to-one basis.

The worker will then help the patient access a wide range of support, from benefits advice and emotional support to help at home or with other practical needs.

As well as supporting over 300 people who have been diagnosed with cancer, the team has generated £427,000 in benefit entitlement for service users, by supporting them to navigate and understand what they are entitled to.

In addition, the team has secured practical items for vulnerable service users including two new central heating systems,  three new boilers and 17 new white goods for residents who required them due to changes in their circumstances.

All of the items have been provided to West Dunbartonshire residents free of charge through the Macmillan Warm at Home scheme.

In addition, the service has made numerous referrals to Occupational Therapy to ensure people are allocated any item that will support them through their cancer journey, including grab rails, chair lifts, new steps and new showers.

Counselling and clinical psychology referrals have also been made to help people receive the psychological support they need following their diagnosis.

In partnership with West Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust’s Live Active Programme, the ICJ team have also provided opportunities to help service users improve physical fitness, as well as build friendships and resilience.

Councillor Diane Docherty, Convener of Housing and Communities, said: “I am so pleased to hear that Improving the Cancer Journey has helped so many of our residents. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be an extremely traumatic experience and the long term effects of treatment often have a huge impact on a person’s health, wellbeing and independence. The aim of this service is to step in and support any person going through this, ensuring they know exactly what help they are entitled to, so that coping with the non-medical effects of the illness is slightly easier.”

Every cancer patient in the area is advised of the service by letter within six weeks of receiving their diagnosis. 

If they want to accept support, their needs and concerns are discussed before a care plan to support them and their family is designed. 

The team have adapted to allow them to continue operating and providing support during the pandemic, temporarily moving the service to an online and telephone consultation and referral.

Councillor Caroline McAllister, Vice Convener of Housing and Communities, added: “Advances in treatment for cancer mean more people than ever are surviving this illness – but that means it’s vital they  are supported for as long as they need.

“While the face-to-face element of the service is currently unavailable due to the pandemic, the team has gone to great lengths to continue to ensure that any person who receives a cancer diagnosis in West Dunbartonshire and wants some additional support can reach out and get that easily.”