Patients are praising a new ‘catch up call’ service which allows cancer patients and their families to receive emotional support from the comfort of their homes.
“It has reminded me that life still goes on”Nora Husband, service user
Trained volunteers can chat to anyone affected by cancer – whether that is a patient undergoing cancer treatment, or a family member or friend having a hard time coming to terms with a loved one’s diagnosis.
Just six months in, the catch up calls, formerly known as ‘comfort calls’ are being praised by those using the service regularly.
71-year-old Nora Husband from Norton is one such service user.
Nora, a retired midwife, was diagnosed with blood cancer in December 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently being treated by the haematology team at the University Hospital of North Tees and is undergoing chemotherapy.
Due to a vulnerable immunocompromised family member, Nora had spent the pandemic shielding at home. Once she received her diagnosis, she shielded to keep not only her family safe, but herself as well.
Unable to socialise with her friends and family as she normally would, Nora found great comfort in her difficult hours through North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s catch up calls.
Nora said: “During the pandemic my life has been very routine, very same-y. This service has been a wonderful escape for me.
“I sometimes don’t always want to talk to my family and friends about certain things but with the volunteers, I can talk about anything. Or nothing.
“It is run by very special people and I would like to see the service expand so it can be offered to more patients like me.”
The trained volunteers in the cancer information centre at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust cannot give medical advice. Instead they offer emotional support and an escape if patients want to take their mind off things for a while.
Rather than talking about her illness and treatment, Nora enjoys chatting about travel, TV and her life in general. Most recently, she enjoyed a chat about Wimbledon with one of the volunteers.
Nora continued: “I can honestly say that this service has brought me such peace and joy. It has reminded me that life still goes on and that I am privileged to be experiencing it.
“I feel like I’m getting support from a friend.”
Nora says her husband and daughter have seen a positive change in her since she began the catch up calls, particularly on a Wednesday afternoon after her chat with the volunteers.
“All down to our amazing volunteers”
The catch up call service began in February as a pilot scheme during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to deploy existing volunteers in new virtual roles to support cancer patients. Nora has had one call a week since the service began.
Anyone who would like to access the service can simply get in touch with the cancer information centre. A volunteer will then phone them for a chat.
Alan Chandler is Macmillan information and survivorship manager at our Trust. He said: “When we set up this service we hoped it would help people. But to hear the impact it has had on Nora’s life is wonderful.
“This is all down to our amazing volunteers who provide a listening ear and support to anyone affected by cancer.”
The success of the pilot scheme means that the catch up call service is set to continue at the Trust for not only the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic, but for the foreseeable future.
This means that people who may not be able to access the cancer information centre on a regular basis can use the service for some extra emotional support.
To book a comfort call appointment, please contact the cancer information team on 01642 383041 or [email protected]