Cancer carers have inadequate training, says charity

 

Shannelle, 20, has been caring for her mum since she was 14

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Some carers looking after cancer patients in the UK are carrying out vital healthcare tasks without always having adequate training, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.

They asked more than 2,000 past and current carers about support they gave.

Twenty-two per cent said they had dealt with specific healthcare tasks like administering medicine and pain relief, while others had to give injections.

The charity wants the NHS to do more to support carers of people with cancer.

Start Quote

Families and carers are the backbone of society and they deserve to be supported.”

End Quote Ciaran Devane Macmillan Cancer Support

There are estimated to be around 240,000 carers looking after family members with cancer in the UK.

Some of the carers surveyed by Macmillan said they had to change dressings or even manage a catheter.

Fewer than half said they had received training from a healthcare professional.

'Identify carers'

Macmillan Cancer Support is pressing for an amendment to the Care Bill, which is due in the Commons later this month, placing a specific duty on the NHS in England to help cancer carers.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health agreed that there needed to be better joint working.

A carer's story

Shannelle, 20, from London, has been caring for her mum, Yvonne, since she was 14.

Yvonne has had lung cancer twice. She also has asthma and arthritis and had two knee replacements after recovering from the cancer.

Shannelle says: "I instantly had a big responsibility. I wanted to help but didn't realise how much I had to do. I was giving her tablets, giving her injections to prevent her blood clotting and checking she was breathing at night.

"Sometimes I didn't know the name of the drugs she was taking. I just used to memorise the colour and shape of them to work out which ones to give her."

Shannelle has an older sister and a supportive family who regularly helped with shopping and cooking.

She still lives with her mum and now studies health and wellbeing at university.

"I did so much nursing in my childhood, it just came naturally."

"Proposals already in the Care Bill will mean that local authorities will have to co-operate and work closely with the NHS to identify and support carers.

"We have also provided £400m to the NHS for carers' breaks and given over £1.5m of funding to help develop initiatives with GPs, nurses and carers organisations to train people to help support them in their caring roles."

In the survey carried out by YouGov for Macmillan Cancer Support, 63% of cancer carers who did not receive any training or said their training was not enough, were left feeling distressed and frightened.

One in three of this group said they were scared that their lack of knowledge could result in the person they care for being admitted to hospital.

'Responsive system'

A spokesperson for NHS England said not enough had been done in the past to ensure carers get the right training and support.

"Closer partnership working is already under way and the Integration Transformation Fund will act as a further catalyst for this.

"Health and Wellbeing Boards have been established, which bring together local clinical commissioning groups and local authorities to gain a shared understanding of the health and wellbeing needs of the community and develop a more responsive health and social care system which delivers better services and reduces health inequalities."

Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said cancer carers took on a huge responsibility and deserved more help.

"Not only do cancer carers give hours of emotional support and practical help, they are performing clinical duties. Families and carers are the backbone of society and they deserve to be supported.

"The Care Bill legislation must be amended to ensure the NHS in England has a responsibility to work with local authorities to identify and signpost cancer carers to appropriate services.

"As the number of people diagnosed with cancer doubles in the next 20 years, there will also be a surge in the number of people caring for them."

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 94.

    My mother died last year in a hospice run by a local cancer charity, Macmillan are not the only cancer charity. My mother wanted to be at home and my father wanted her to be, but what they don't tell you is that often you lose the ability to control bowel and bladder towards the end and she had to have professional nursing, family carers cannot hope to deal with that. The hospice were great.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 91.

    Even the average Mcmillan nurse gives far more care than the local authority 10 minute wonders. The one looking after my grandmother made absolutely sure that her routine tablet requirement was fully understood by my mother, gave her phone number for any problems, and was there beside her with the family when she finally passed away.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 55.

    I am glad to finally find out what Macmillan do! Having had my Mother die of cancer 18 months ago and now have my father undergoing palative treatment for cancer I have neither heard nor seen hide nor hair of them apart from 5 minutes advising my father on his benefit entitlements (DWP can do this) The district nurses on the other hand are absolute angels and have my upmost respect and gratitude

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 41.

    Nurses need degrees because they carry out part doctor part nurse work now. Nurses are therefore, rightly, paid more than historically.

    More expensive nurses means fewer nurses though. Therefore instead of nurses carrying out visits it's left to carers - either employed or volunteer family members.

    It can only result in more patients being hospitalised which is surely a more expensive outcome!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 39.

    I find it disappointing we need services at all for this sort of thing

    Once we had close knit families, friendly neighbours and supportive friends where caring for those you love or care for was a natural thing to do without question

    In our rush for progress these structures are now fragmented, and we are left with 'services'

    I'm not sure what can be done to solve this, its more of a lament :/

 

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