Recreating cancer unit atmosphere on mobile unit

Ruth Lightening is a Deputy Sister on the Weybourne Day Unit and has been working on the new Mobile Cancer Care Unit (MCCU), which is a partnership between the Trust, N&N Hospitals Charity and cancer charity Hope for Tomorrow.

Ruth, who has worked for cancer services at NNUH for 14 years, said: “Being part of a patient’s journey through treatment is so rewarding. We are a small enough team on the Weybourne Unit to be able to get to know our patients and their families. I feel very privileged to be part of the Oncology and Haematology team, we all work together from the scheduling of the first treatment to a patients final treatment.”

The MCCU launched in Fakenham last month and is also set to visit Dereham, Attleborough and Beccles to bring cancer care closer to people’s homes.

Ruth said the mobile unit has been well received so far: “Patients are pleasantly surprised how similar it is to having treatment on the Weybourne Day Unit as we have replicated the atmosphere, it’s very calming and as well as their treatment we still offer a cup of tea and a chat! The feedback has been that the MCCU has saved many miles of travel and there is parking next to the mobile unit. We aim to benefit even more patients when we start at our other locations in the near future.”

The deputy sister’s advice to patients worried about accessing services during the pandemic is.

“Please do not be concerned about accessing cancer care during the pandemic – we are still up and running, providing care to patients. We screen patients for any Covid-19 symptoms prior to arriving at hospital to make the process as safe as possible. There are fantastic support networks around who can provide information and answer any questions. We want our patients to feel as supported as possible as well as providing treatment in a safe environment.”

The MCCU owned and maintained by Hope for Tomorrow and will be provided along with a Nurses’ Support Vehicle (NSV). The NNUH staffing costs will be covered by the Norfolk and Norwich Hospitals Charity for the first three years, which has supported funding two registered nurses, a driver, pharmacy support and booking team. All other costs associated with the MCCU and NSV, such as running costs and maintenance, are covered by Hope for Tomorrow, who receive no government funding and rely purely on donations to keep these units operating.

The vehicle houses a mobile chemotherapy day unit with space for four recliner chairs, infusion pumps, a kitchen area and patient toilet.

Ann Leigh, 75, who is receiving treatment following a recurrence of breast cancer said: “The journey to the N&N is a round trip of fifty miles and I developed a phobia about the driving, parking and getting to my appointments. You can imagine my delight when I learned of the mobile unit! If I had been asked to imagine the best thing that could happen to help my treatments, I would not have been able to envision such a wonderful solution. Suddenly instead of my treatment being an ordeal it had become ‘no big deal’ at all. I felt like I was just popping down the road, as if I were just going to the shops.

Of course the nurses and driver on the Mobile Unit are super. That is a given, as indeed is everyone at the Weybourne Unit. No, my transformation in attitude is entirely down to no longer having to view my ‘getting there’ as such an ordeal. Thank you for all the vision and the hard work of bringing this into being. I know there will be many of us very, very grateful for all that you have done. And thank you, as well, for managing to keep on treating us throughout the pandemic.”