Annual Members Meeting 2022 - questions and answers

Can oncologists or nurses ring patients with scans or blood results? [Name removed] would do this as he knew it’s hard waiting for results. They now say if you don't hear from us it’s good news but most of the men on my forum would prefer the old way.

Patients should always be informed of their results. This may be via a phone consultation, outpatient appointment or letter. A telephone call may not always be the most appropriate method – for example, if the scan shows spread or recurrence and a patient is called when they may be alone or not expecting the news. If your question relates to a specific team or service, please just let us know and we will double-check the team have a system in place for ensuring patients are informed of their results.

What kinds of significant changes/developments are to be known now that there is the extended Clatterbridge in Liverpool?

The key drivers for opening the new hospital in Liverpool were to increase access to specialist cancer care, improve access to acute medical and surgical specialties for more complex patients (e.g. those with other health conditions as well as cancer), and enhance research and innovation.

Since opening, our activity has increased significantly. We are seeing and treating many more patients – including systemic treatment (e.g. chemotherapy), radiotherapy and scans.

We have secured major research funding and collaborations, both within the region and nationally. This includes a NIHR grant of £5.3m to the Liverpool Clinical Research Facility, a partnership between The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, Liverpool University Hospitals and Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital. It also includes a new Biomedical Research Centre in partnership with The Royal Marsden, which will increase our patients’ access to cutting-edge research and ensure we can continue to attract and retain the best staff.

We have delivered first-in-human clinical trials – including pioneering cancer vaccines – which would not have been possible without the on-site access to acute medicine and critical care that we have in the new hospital. We have acquired Haemato-Oncology services from Aintree Hospital and Royal Liverpool University Hospital Foundation Trust so that this now comes under The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. It means that, for the first time, blood cancer patients in Liverpool can have access to the same wraparound support as those with solid tumours and we can deliver clinical trials and new treatments that were not possible under the previous model.

During the pandemic we were able to maintain clinical activity through use of digital technology supporting remote consultations. We are also expanding the number of trainees and medical students we train and hope that this will increase the pipeline of doctors who work for The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in the future.

Our patients rate the standard of our inpatient care very highly with us, and I’m pleased to say that we have once again been named one of the best hospitals in England in the CQC’s National Inpatient Survey.

Will a review of the patient experience during COVID take place? In my view lessons/best practice should be gathered now in case of a future pandemic or further wave of COVID-19?

In May 2021, the Government announced that there would be a national public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic. The UK COVID-19 Inquiry, chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett, has now begun its work with preliminary hearings. Like all NHS organisations, we will contribute to this inquiry as appropriate.

We agree that it is really important to review what happened and learn lessons for future pandemics. Our systems for gathering patient feedback continued right throughout the pandemic, albeit with some modifications, and we always take this feedback on board.

During the pandemic, we had to make many changes to the way we delivered care in line with national guidance on infection prevention & control to keep patients safe as the country dealt with a new and extremely serious disease. This wasn’t always easy and there are lessons for all hospitals around the feeling of isolation for those patients who had a long stay in hospital.

Alongside this, however, feedback including the CQC’s annual National Inpatient Survey shows that patients consistently rate The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre as one of the best hospitals nationally for patient experience. We do particularly well on respect for privacy and dignity, which is a direct result of each patient having their own en-suite room in Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Liverpool.

Our Patient Experience and Inclusion Committee – which includes patient representatives – leads on this work and we are always looking at how we can do even more to deliver the very best for our patients. We have already acted, and will continue to act, on any areas where patients feel we can do better – for example, we are currently improving the choice and provision of food. We are also exploring the idea of ‘prehabilitation’ to help people prepare for treatment and access to exercise facilities while they are on our wards.

Infection prevention & control guidance has been followed and continues to be followed throughout the Trust.

I am seeking reassurance that lessons have been learned with regard to patient care and wellbeing during the pandemic. How would the patient experience be different or improved if the pandemic caused similar measures in the future?

At the start of the pandemic when the country went into lockdown, NHS England led the response across all NHS organisations. Keeping people safe in the face of a new, unknown and extremely serious virus was paramount. It was especially important to protect people with cancer and others at high risk from infection.

We continued to provide cancer care right throughout the pandemic but we couldn’t deliver our services in the same way we usually would. We had to make adaptations to deliver care safely, based on national legislation and guidance at that time on preventing the spread of COVID-19. Our Digital team quickly rolled out new tools to help us do this – for example, electronic consent forms to save patients a trip to hospital.

However, we couldn’t deliver the same kind of patient experience that we all value so much in normal circumstances – the support people get from being able to bring someone with them or from getting to know other patients, for example.

As scientists have learnt more about COVID-19, infection prevention & control guidance has changed and we have been able to bring this back. We hope that we won’t ever experience a similar pandemic again in our lifetimes but, if it did, we would all – in our organisation, nationally and globally – bring the learning from COVID-19, including the impact that restrictions on social contact can have.

Has communication and teamwork improved with regard to sharing facilities with the new Royal given how poor the service was for CCC patients who had to receive treatment there. By way of example: patients being left in the doorway of one hospital waiting for porter staff from the other hospital as staff from one hospital would not enter the other!

Communication and teamwork between the two hospitals works well and has done from the start. Due to the pandemic, we had strict biosecurity in place to protect patients and reduce the risk of COVID-19 being brought into our hospital. Staff from other hospitals would bring patients to the door. Patients would then be escorted into the hospital by one of our own staff.

Measures like this, alongside each patient having their own room, helped to prevent infections and protect our patients.

Now that the new Royal is open, we work even more closely and there is a link bridge between the two hospitals. Two more link bridges are set to open in the next few months, and the system is working well.