“Working alongside each other, being open with each other and supportive of each other really is crucial.”

Macmillan Cancer Support are well known for their partnership with Glasgow Libraries where volunteers are available to provide emotional, practical and financial support, as well as reliable information, to anyone with a cancer diagnosis. The service has grown in scope over the years and have now developed the Macmillan Volunteering Hub at Glasgow Life, with the aim to add more to the services Macmillan offer across the city. The team have already set up and manage Macmillan @ West Dunbartonshire Libraries and have recruited and trained volunteers for the Macmillan Information and Support Centre at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre.

Working in partnership with Macmillan, NHS and the Glasgow City Council, Improving the Cancer Journey provides Holistic Needs Assessments (HNA), offered at the point of diagnosis and available to take up whatever stage of their cancer diagnosis people are at.

HNAs were developed when it was identified that people living with cancer needed support beyond what was offered, including help with benefits. Recognising the need for a holistic approach the HNAs, based with in Glasgow City Council, came into being in 2014. Since then the service has helped over 3,000 people, referring those accessing the assessments to over 220 services across the city – a truly integrated approach.

Services people might be referred to include simple health related appointments such as dental and optical check-ups to referrals for counselling and support in taking part in physical activity, to name but a few.

Further examples of integration across the teams are the presence of link workers on hospital wards where they support people who are too unwell to attend assessments and those with terminal cancer.

A growing offering

Ever ambitious to grow their offerings, the Macmillan Volunteering Hub at Glasgow Life is furthering its integrated approach with a new volunteer driver initiative that will link in with Improving the Cancer Journey by taking people to and from appointments.

The aim of the new initiative is to enable those who might not be able to travel to locations where HNAs take place due to their financial situation, mobility issues or inconsistent transport options in their area. This will provide access to a service people may otherwise have been unable to benefit from. With over 80% of those who get support from HNAs saying it had improved their overall quality of life, the positive impact upon individuals is clear.

Stef McCartney who is heading up the volunteer driver initiative said: “Being able to access the HNA helps to take the worries away. You’ve got someone you can pick up the phone to, someone who can link you in to all these places, doing the admin and planning out different referrals. People don’t have the energy to do that themselves and end up not accessing services because it’s too much to sort out.”

Making integration work

The volunteer drivers form a crucial element of an integrated approach and Stef feels that open communication between teams bolsters the volunteer approach. A recent training session for Improving the Cancer Journey educated them on working with volunteers, busting some myths and growing understanding between the teams.

Stef’s feeling is that integrated teams should be equal partners, saying: “It’s important to have everyone involved, it’s important for everyone to have their say and to keep everyone updated and informed. Working alongside each other, being open with each other and supportive of each other really is crucial.”

The new volunteer driver initiative will roll out later this summer with ambitions to extend it to providing transport to the services people are referred to as a result of the HNA. It is an exciting time for Macmillan partnerships in Glasgow and a testament to furthering an integrated approach.