Western Isles cancer project to trial new patient care centre in Stornoway

A Western Isles cancer project has today, Wednesday 12th June, announced plans to trial a new patient care centre in Lewis.

The Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative, with the continued support of Macmillan Cancer Support, the Pentland Windfarm, and through generous donations received, notably from the Airport 2 Airport challenge last year, will pilot a trial project to provide a care centre for cancer patients – physically based in Stornoway – but deliverable throughout the Western Isles.

WICCI will provide two treatment rooms offering a range of complementary therapies and counselling, and a congregational space to deliver group activities, information and support all delivered from its new base situated in Cromwell Street in Stornoway.

The support centre will aid anyone whose lives are affected by cancer through the promotion of a holistic needs assessment which will outline the kind of support the person with cancer needs and how they will get it, whether that be to support and advice, or physical and emotional therapy.

In April, the Free Press reported on responses from a survey undertaken by the WICCI, which found that Western Isles patients receiving cancer treatment on the mainland were more than £500 worse off due to travel costs and other expenses.

In the past local GPs were able to approve patient escorts for Western Isles patients travelling to the mainland for appointments. However, following a policy change first introduced through a pilot scheme in 2017, approval is now given by the Western Isles Medical Director’s office.

While there were no changes made to the criteria for approving escorts or to the Patient Travel Policy, it appeared to patient groups that the criteria were being much more strictly enforced, leading to increasing numbers of people having their applications for a patient escort refused.

Since the change, patient advocacy groups, led by the Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative, have been pushing for a more patient-centred form of approval for patient escorts.

A petition seeking changes to the policy was started in December 2018, as reported by the Free Press, which gained over 1,500 signatures and was lobbied by Alasdair Allan MSP to the Scottish Government. In May the Cabinet Secretary for Health Jeane Freeman wrote to the NHS Western Isles Chief Executive asking that the Board convene a working group, including patient group representatives, to review the escort applications process.

WICCI Development Officer Helen Sandison has said that the organisation will work with “agencies, specialists and those who have experienced cancer to deliver a first-class service.”

Following today’s announcement of the new trial care centre, WICCI Development Officer Helen Sandison told the Free Press: “From the outset of the WICCI project, we have been listening to cancer patients and their families on the issues of aftercare support and the ‘what now’ feeling once treatment is over. We have responded to these comments through the development of this aftercare service, which will be rolled out throughout the Western Isles, free of charge to any cancer patient needing extra help and support.

“We are really grateful for all the donations given to date to make this happen, including our unique partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support Scotland and support from the Pentland Windfarm, but we also need to tap into the well-known generosity of the residents of the Western Isles to get us over this final hurdle to get the building opened.

“We are really proud to be able to respond to the direct requests for a service of this kind and look forward to working with agencies, specialists and those who have experienced cancer to deliver a first-class service.”

While the running costs of the project are covered for the next year, WICCI is to embark on a fundraising campaign next year to continue the project beyond 2020 with discussions already underway with funders to secure support for this.

WICCI have stated that they are facing a shortfall in the initial refurbishment costs for its new premises, which they said they could cover in their existing budget but would they much prefer to use to offer more services for its members.

The organisation is asking for the help of individuals and businesses in the Western Isles to raise £5000 which will help cover the costs of an initial deposit; floor coverings; external signage; and internal alterations not covered by the landlord, such as soundproofing, lighting and extra electricals in the building.

WICCI have launched a GoFundMe page, where people can donate what they can towards these costs.

A spokesperson for WICCI told the Free Press: “Any donations are very gratefully received to help us reach our target of £5000.

“If any local businesses or individuals wished to offer a significant donation, we would be happy to formally recognise this support in our new centre. “

WICCI are aiming to be situated in the new building from July, while the new services are expected to be up and running by the beginning of September.

A Message from WICCI

If you are a therapist or counsellor who may be interested in delivering services to our members and have not already been in touch, please do contact us.  We are always looking for specialists to work with us, you will be paid on a self-employed basis,  so if you think you could spare some time and expertise, get in touchoffice@wicci.org.uk 

WICCI will also be looking for volunteers, who have been through cancer treatment, who would be willing to come into the centre on a couple of occasions per week to meet with anyone who comes in for a chat, share advice and offer support.  If you think you are able to provide this vital service, please get in touch. 

Article by Adam Gordon