Radiotherapy initiative for end-of-life care wins major patient award

A scheme to provide radiographer-led care to terminally ill patients at Velindre Cancer Centre has won the 'Palliative Care' category at the UK-wide Patient Safety Awards

A scheme which has made it quicker and easier for cancer patients to access radiotherapy treatment has won a national patient safety award for 'Palliative Care'. The initiative, which was trialled at Velindre Cancer Centre at Cardiff, has significantly improved the quality of life for patients by embedding radiographers within the palliative care function, relieving outpatient doctors and ensuring patients can access radiotherapy treatment more rapidly.

The initiative was supported by the Bevan Commission through the Bevan Exemplars scheme, and won the ‘Palliative Care’ category, as well as being shortlisted under the ‘Cancer Care’ category, at the UK-wide Patient Safety Awards, which were held on 9 July in Manchester. 

Steve Hill, a planning radiographer at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, was aware that palliative patients were sometimes experiencing delayed radiotherapy treatment, even when their treatment fell within ‘acceptable’ targets. Patients who do not receive timely radiotherapy treatment can experience severe pain and may develop treatment anxiety as a result. It was found that treatment delays were often due to staffing issues and complex cases which required specialist expertise.

As many poor patient experiences are preventable Steve Hill developed an initiative to improve the pathway of radiotherapy care for cancer patients by embedding radiographers within palliative care services. This initiative, which was supported by the Bevan Commission and an internal service improvement grant of £10,000, supports the provision of emergency radiotherapy and rapid access to treatment for palliative patients.

Junior doctors have also benefitted from being trained by radiographers embedded within the planning service, enabling them to develop new specialisms in radiotherapy and therefore treat more end-of-life patients. 

It is now hoped that this innovative approach can be scaled up to provide radiographer-led consultations and prescriptions in services and departments across Wales.

Steve Hill, Planning Radiographer at Velindre Cancer Centre, said: “The Bevan Commission has been brilliant in enabling us to think about the problem in a different way and developing different expertise as a result. Meeting fellow Bevan Exemplars from a variety of clinical pathways opened up new further perspectives. The Bevan Exemplar scheme was invaluable in allowing us to collect data that demonstrated real improvements in terms of patient experiences, which we could use to secure Management and Board support.”

Siôn Charles, Deputy Director at the Bevan Commission, said: “The Bevan Exemplar scheme has been designed to enable future health and care leaders to implement their own ideas to improve health outcomes and patient experiences. Steve has exemplified this aim by developing an initiative that has led to a real transformation in the quality of life of palliative patients. We are delighted that this work has been recognised by the Patient Safety Awards, emphasising the importance of putting patient needs first when improving service delivery."

Dr Mark Taubert, Clinical Director for Palliative Medicine, Velindre NHS Trust, said: "It is great to get recognition in the form of this HSJ award for the dedicated work here at Velindre in palliative radiotherapy. The commitment and seamless work by staff in Radiotherapy and Palliative Care is frequently commented on by patients in Velindre NHS Trust, and I think we have one of the most holistic thinking departments in the UK. Often people assume radiotherapy is a purely technical process, with little or no human interaction, but this is wrong. Velindre staff incorporate a very person-centred and kind approach and also strive to improve speed of access."

The Patient Safety Awards were held on 9 July in Manchester.  Visit their website to view the award winners and shortlisted projects.

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