Support for cancer patients and their families in East Devon is to receive a massive boost.
FORCE Cancer Charity has announced it is to begin funding the delivery of chemotherapy at Honiton Hospital from this autumn.
It will run alongside a raft of support services for anyone in the area affected by cancer.
Every Friday (10am 4pm) FORCE will offer, free of charge:
- A drop-in service for advice and information
- Complementary therapies
The drop-in service and appointments for counselling and complementary therapies will be available from September 14 with exercise advice from a specialist oncology physiotherapist and family support introduced later.
Chemotherapy sessions are likely to begin in October.
Finally taking shape
FORCE Chief Executive Meriel Fishwick said: “We couldn’t be more pleased to see this new project finally taking shape. It has been in the pipeline for some time now and will follow the successful model of FORCE@Tiverton and FORCE@Okehampton.”
Exeter-based FORCE, one of the region’s leading and most respected cancer support organisations, introduced a programme of taking its services into the community in 2014 when it opened outreach centres in Tiverton and Okehampton.
In the past year chemotherapy has also been made available to patients from both towns and surrounding areas, thanks to more generous funding from FORCE.
The charity has been looking to expand its services into East Devon since 2014 when its trustees first identified the need to reach deeper into more rural areas of the county.
Tremendous support base
Since then FORCE has been working closely with the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust to find a suitable location in the East of the county.
Space at Honiton Hospital has finally been earmarked for use by FORCE, which already has a tremendous supporter base in the area.
Tina Grose, Lead Cancer Nurse at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust said: “The chemotherapy team are overwhelmed with the positive feedback from the patients; the outreach facilities provide a calm environment for the delivery of chemotherapy while supporting the patient holistic needs. To be able to provide this service alongside FORCE support services provides a one stop patient centred service.”
FORCE has already designated more than £700,000 to improve accessibility to its services as a key element of its strategic plan to ensure that more people in the county receive the best available treatment and support as close to home as possible.
The charity plans to spend £186,000 on three years of funding for two full-time chemotherapy nurses to work in Exeter two days a week and in FORCE’s outreach locations for the remaining three.
The money is paying for those specialist nurses from the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital to administer some of the more straightforward treatments to patients, saving them the journey to Wonford whenever possible.
The benefits to people receiving chemotherapy include:
- Treatment closer to home so less travelling time and expense
- Easier parking
- Quieter location and treatment area
- Reduced waiting time for treatment, both in Okehampton and Exeter
- Experienced oncology staff from the hospital to deliver treatment
- Access to additional FORCE services to support you and your family
Not all cancer patients will be eligible to receive chemotherapy treatments outside the RD&E’s main acute hospital site at Wonford. Consultants and chemotherapy nurses will discuss with patients and families whether they are suitable for community-based treatment.
The charity began funding a pilot outreach chemotherapy project at Tiverton Hospital in July 2017 and extended the service to Okehampton earlier this year.
Feedback from patients and nursing staff has been so positive that it is being rolled out as quickly as possible in East Devon. An exact start date is yet to be announced.
A grant of £9,000 from the Exeter Chiefs Foundation helped FORCE to buy a new van for the secure transport of drugs.
For one family from Honiton, the news that FORCE will be supporting people affected by cancer in their home town is particularly momentous.
The Cantles have worked hard for a number of years to bring the charity to Honiton.
David Cantle has been a trustee at FORCE for nearly 30 years, wife Jean has been heavily involved in fundraising and promoting its work and daughter Sue Phillips is the charity’s outreach co-ordinator.
The family was introduced to FORCE when Sue’s older brother Stephen was diagnosed with cancer in January 1988. He died three months later, aged just 20.
Retired businessman David (pictured above with Jean) said: “It is brilliant that a FORCE Centre in Honiton will be opening shortly. The town is as much a part of our lives as FORCE is so we are absolutely over the moon. Jean and I are thankful for the fabulous band of supporters, staff, volunteers and friends that continue to drive FORCE forward, making it a unique and excellent charity in the field of cancer care.”
FORCE is already active in East Devon with a fitness sessions for cancer patients at leisure centres in Ottery St Mary, Axminster, Seaton, Exmouth and Honiton.
The charity funds eight-week exercise programmes run by fitness instructors who are specially qualified in cancer rehabilitation.
They work with patients referred to them by FORCE’s experienced oncology physiotherapist, who assesses each person individually and provides tailored advice and practical help.
Cancer and its treatments can cause physical changes such as reduced energy levels and fatigue as well as low mood and anxiety.
In the past, doctors would advise people to rest as much as possible during treatment but that has changed. Evidence now shows that simple physical activity can reduce many of the side effects of cancer treatment and also the risk of recurrence in some cancer by up to 60%.
Maintaining all the services it offers for free means that FORCE needs to raise £1.7 million every year.
The charity receives no Government or NHS funding so support from the people it serves and their communities is vital.
FORCE receives fantastic support from people in the Honiton area and East Devon in general. It has two dedicated Friends of Force groups in the Axe Valley and Exmouth.
If you would like to join them or set up a fundraising group of your own, contact Mervyn Hayes on 01392 402875 or via email – firstname.lastname@example.org