Trust celebrates good result for cancer patients

“We’re providing chemotherapy for cancer patients to ease their symptoms. They shouldn’t be dying from complications from that chemotherapy.” That’s the rationale behind an enhanced diagnostic system at a local NHS Trust which has been named as the best in the region for treating a serious chemotherapy-related blood condition for the second year running.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Hospital Foundation Trust’s oncology team have developed in-house training and a swifter admissions process for cancer patients who present at hospital showing signs of the potentially deadly Neutropenic Sepsis.

Neutropenic Sepsis (caused by the reduced white blood cell count) is a common side-effect of chemotherapy due to the patient’s weakened immune system. Symptoms can include high temperatures, aches, general unwell feelings and shivers.

Patients suffering from Neutropenic Sepsis can die within hours of symptoms becoming evident, making the timely diagnosis and delivery of antibiotics is a priority.

Acute Oncology Nurse Tracy Nugent explains: “We’ve worked really hard to change our systems so that any patient with suspected Neutropenic Sepsis is seen, diagnosed and receive the right treatment within 60 minutes of arrival.

“We explain the symptoms and signs of the potential complications to all our chemotherapy patients so they know to access help and advice as soon as there any signs.

“Patients have access to a dedicated 24-hour helpline, to contact with any symptoms which is staffed by senior oncology, haematology and chemotherapy specialists.

“We’ve carried out training and briefings with staff to make them more aware and all incidents of Neutropenic Sepsis are recorded. Any case where medication is delivered after 60 minutes, even by just one minute, is investigated.

“Sometimes going past the one-hour limit is unavoidable. Some patients come in with other conditions that also need to be treated or their symptoms may make the diagnosis more difficult. We learn from all of these incidents and update our training and advice to staff as a result.

“We’re providing chemotherapy for cancer patients to ease their symptoms. They shouldn’t be dying from complications from that chemotherapy.”

Tracy and her fellow Acute Oncology Nurses Kendra Powell and Sally McQueeney enhanced the process after learning the Trust was not performing as well some other local Trusts.

But now, for the second year in succession, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has the highest rate of diagnosis and treatment of Neutropenic Sepsis in the local region with an incredible 83% of patients being treated within the hour.

The result was revealed at presentation to the Northern Cancer Alliance, the body committed to improving cancer services and survival rates in the north east and Cumbria.

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