Cancer patient support service now helping NHS staff with increased anxieties during pandemic

Lead complementary therapist, Angela Jackson.Lead complementary therapist, Angela Jackson.
Lead complementary therapist, Angela Jackson.
A patient support service is proving more important than ever in the face of increased anxieties faced by people during the pandemic.

Cancer treatment can be physically and emotionally challenging, so patients receiving care at Newcastle Hospitals are additionally supported by a Complementary Therapy Service providing help to relieve issues including anxiety, pain and lack of sleep.

The free service is for patients at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, based at the Freeman Hospital, who come to Newcastle for specialist cancer treatment from across the North East, Cumbria and further afield.

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It has been supporting patients since 2004 and is currently funded by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and Charlie Bear for Cancer Care.

Angela Jackson providing treatment within Covid guidelines.Angela Jackson providing treatment within Covid guidelines.
Angela Jackson providing treatment within Covid guidelines.

Over the last 16 years, more than 24,000 patients have received treatments including reflexology, massage, gentle touch therapy, mindfulness and supportive listening.

The dedicated treatment room was the brainchild of lead complementary therapist Angela Jackson, from Cramlington, and provides a space to allow patients to ‘escape’ the normal clinical environment of the hospital.

Angela and her small team have worked tirelessly to continue delivering complementary therapy during the Covid-19 pandemic, a time when many cancer patients have felt increased anxiety.

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Angela said: “During the pandemic, we’ve had to adapt the ways in which we provide treatments.

The specialist Complementary Therapy Suite at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care.The specialist Complementary Therapy Suite at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care.
The specialist Complementary Therapy Suite at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care.

"We wear full personal protective equipment and currently only work on wards, because we’re not able to offer treatment within the confines of the therapy suite.

“It’s been hard at times wearing PPE, especially as we usually try to make the service as far away from a clinical experience as possible, but I’m so proud to have been able to be there for the many patients who request our support.

"We’re honoured to have been able to listen and provide comfort to patients, especially when restrictions for visitors meant their families weren’t able to be there in person.

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“I also realised there were a few ways in which we could provide support to our colleagues on the frontline, who have also had to adapt to lots of changes at home and work.

“I started talking to staff about mindfulness and relaxation techniques and then I thought about the empty therapy suite and realised we had this wonderful space of relaxation available.

“As we weren’t able to use it for patient treatments, I decided to modify it to become a space of respite for staff who might like to take some time out to reflect as they experienced these uncertain times.

“Every day, we’ve been opening our doors and setting up as we would normally do for patients.

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"We play gentle music, light LED candles and offer the space to any member of staff who felt they would like to use the room for some quiet reflection.

"It’s been very greatly appreciated and we’re very glad it’s being used.”

Each therapy is intended to complement a patient’s medical care alongside their cancer treatment.

Angela added: “In this role, every day is different and we’re always adapting to meet the needs of patients so we can support them as best we can.

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“I’m so pleased we’ve been able to continue to provide our service during the pandemic and hope we’ve also been able to offer comfort and support to our colleagues in these difficult times, too.”

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