A major research project to be based in Donegal will explore ways to reduce the amount of time cancer patients spend in hospital by bringing some of their treatment into the community.
The €160,000 project, which has been fundraised for by the Irish Cancer Society’s Donegal Relay for Life, aims to reduce the travel and time burden for cancer patients who are normally treated with tablets in hospital.
As part of the pilot initiative, certain cancer patients whose regular visits to hospital day units can take up to three hours will instead be assessed for and provided with their oral anti-cancer medications at a community-based GP centre by an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP).
Rather than waiting in day units to be reviewed, eligible patients will go to their hospital oncology unit for an initial visit for general information and prescriptions before consenting to have further appointments in the community.
The two-year project was awarded funding as part of the Irish Cancer Nursing Research Award and is also supported by the National Cancer Control Programme, the Health Research Board and the Office of the Nursing and Midwifery Services Director.
“The idea of this project is to make things easier for patients who can be treated outside of a hospital setting, which will also help to address hospital overcrowding. That way, patients can receive routine assessments and medication without having to travel to and wait in hospital day units, and the expense that goes with it,” said Janice Richmond, an ANP in Oncology from Letterkenny University Hospital who will lead the project, alongside Prof Andrew Murphy of NUI Galway and the wider oncology team in the hospital.
The funding is one of two awards totalling €236,000 to be announced at the Relay for Life Donegal Cancer Conference to take place in Letterkenny on Saturday, with a further €77,000 going towards examining the possible wider rollout of the successful Moving On cancer survivorship programme first trialled at Letterkenny University Hospital in 2018.
The Moving On Programme, which involves a team spanning a number of health disciplines led by Janice Richmond, is tailored for individuals with a cancer diagnosis who have finished their active treatment.
Run over three to six months, the programme aims to improve health and facilitate better outcomes for patients after their acute cancer treatment is completed. It includes information from a physiotherapist, dietician and clinical psychologist to identify barriers and set goals for survivors in areas including diet and fitness.
Commenting on the awards, Irish Cancer Society Head of Research Dr Robert O’Connor said: “It is fantastic to see these important research projects funded by the Society coming to the northwest. We are very excited for the potential of Dr Richmond’s latest pilot to improve the lives of cancer patients following the success of the Moving On Programme.
“None of this would be possible without the drive and commitment of our fundraisers, supporters and wider community in Donegal, particularly the Donegal Relay for Life committee.”
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