Abby Stevens is Macmillan Chemotherapy and Acute Oncology Project Support Officer and part of the team behind the Chemotherapy Alert Card. Here Abby tells about the need for this card and the difference that they hope that this card will mean to the lives of cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.
There are two main reasons why project manager, Rosie Roberts (a Chemotherapy Specialist Nurse at Velindre Cancer Centre by background) and I developed the All-Wales Chemotherapy Alert Card.
- Firstly to ensure that all cancer patients across Wales who are undergoing chemotherapy receive clear and consistent advice.
- To raise awareness that patients undergoing chemotherapy are at a high risk for developing severe side effects including Neutropenic Sepsis and how to manage this.
Neutropenic Sepsis – a common side effect of chemotherapy
Neutropenic Sepsis is a life threatening reaction to infection and is a common side effect of chemotherapy – however it can be treated if caught early enough.
Therefore it’s vital for patients and Health Care professionals to be aware of the symptoms and the importance of acting quickly.
Designing the card
Having looked at how written information was given to patients across Wales it was found that whilst all patients received written information on the side effects from chemotherapy some patients would only receive information in a large booklet – which would often sit on a shelf untouched, others a sheet of paper that could be easily lost. Some patients already received a card that they could carry with them. The feedback we received from patients was that these portable cards were useful and well utilised.
We wanted to make sure that all patients had access to clear and concise information which could be kept close to hand.
It was also important for us to have something that would allow patients to easily identify themselves to Health Care Professionals as undergoing chemotherapy, and provide management guidance to these professionals.
An all-Wales approach
We produced the AllWales Alert Card in consultation with each Health Board and Velindre NHS Trust to ensure that this card represented the needs of their patients and Health Care Professionals.
We’ve received agreement from across Wales that all patients who receive chemotherapy within Wales will be given this alert card.
Counteracting information overload
Patients receive a lot of information before starting their treatment and it’s often hard to keep track of everything. The Alert card does not replace the full verbal explanation that patients receive but is a handy portable reminder. This credit card sized alert card is something they should carry with them at all times and provides a reminder of key symptoms they should be looking out for and also the 24 hour contact number for them to access specialist advice and information should they become unwell.
The card also provides key information to Health Care Professionals on the management of these patients and the importance of acting quickly. The contact telephone numbers on the card can be used by Health Care Professionals– and local Acute Oncology Services (AOS) are also available 9-5 Monday -Friday to provide support and guidance.
The card is bilingual to ensure one standardised card for Wales which we hope will become instantly recognisable to Health Care Professionals irrespective of location. If a patient who is receiving chemotherapy in Swansea is on holiday in Wrexham by presenting this card when they attend hospital they will be easily identified as a chemotherapy patient and started on the right management pathway.