Press release posted June 2023
A welcome lifeline service for Bolton cancer patients is proving so popular it has doubled in size. The Christie NHS Foundation Trust runs a weekly bloods clinic at Bolton Hospice – meaning patients who need regular blood tests during cancer treatment can be spared a longer drive to South Manchester.
The Christie bloods service started at Bolton Hospice in 2019 as part of a project to allow more patients to access cancer care locally. Funded by The Christie Charity, due to its popularity the service has now increased from seeing 36 patients to 72 every Monday.
Since 2013, The Christie has been developing SACT (systemic anti-cancer therapy) outreach services in hospitals, hospices and health centres across Greater Manchester to bring care closer to home for patients, helping to make thousands of lives easier. SACT is treatments for cancer that uses medication and includes chemotherapy, immunotherapy, bisphosphonates (drugs that help prevent or slow down bone thinning) and hormone treatment. As part of this, nurses began a pilot programme of local blood testing in 2019, with four clinics supporting around 200 local patients each week.
The Christie service at Bolton Hospice is supported by Wilmslow based Waters Corporation whose aim is to help improve access to cancer treatments across Great Manchester and address inequalities in social care across the region.
Cancer patients receiving treatments need a blood test beforehand. This is to check their blood levels, how their organs are functioning and protein levels, which can also act as markers for how their treatment is responding.
Currently, most Christie patients must travel to the Withington site for blood tests before returning the following day for treatment. This can be hugely challenging if they live on the outskirts of The Christie catchment area or are already receiving treatment at a local site. If patients are feeling unwell, this can make the journey even harder. Or, if they are juggling jobs and childcare, the intensity of these visits can cause even more anxiety.
One patient who is hugely benefiting from the service is 72-year-old grandad Phil Mitchell. Phil, who lives in Stoneclough, was first treated in 2017 for melanoma of the eye. Unfortunately last year, he discovered the melanoma had spread to his brain, hip and the muscle mass of his thigh. Phil was referred to The Christie and has since been taking part in a clinical trial that involves 2 hospital visits a week – the first for a blood test, and the second for immunotherapy treatment at the specialist cancer centre in Withington, Manchester.
But thanks to the expansion of the Bolton service, Phil is now able to receive the blood tests at Bolton Hospice, halving the amount of trips he needs to make to Manchester and giving him more time to spend with his wife Katrina at their caravan in Blackpool.
He said: “I appreciate everything that is done at The Christie, but it can be quite disruptive with all the travel. The new clinic at Bolton is marvellous. I’m in and out in matter of minutes which means I get on with other things instead of spending hours on the motorway – they’re saving my life but also making sure it’s a life I can enjoy and I’m very grateful.”
The ‘bloods closer to home’ service is coordinated by The Christie’s lead nurse for outpatient and phlebotomy services, Joanne Roberts. She said: “Thanks to the 2019 pilot, we now plan to open 20 new clinics to reach the people most in need, hopefully reaching 1,000 people per week through the local service. The service at Bolton Hospice is a great example of how we have been able to increase the offering for patients, really benefiting patients like Phil.
“In the long-term, we hope this service can be offered to all patients. We are now working to increase our capacity by relocating and recruiting more staff. We will also need to fund more specialist equipment for taking bloods and recording results, which is all being made possible thanks to funding from The Christie Charity.”
The Christie Charity supports the work of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust providing enhanced services over and above what the NHS funds. This includes money for care and treatment, research, education and extra patient services. Gifts from the public make a huge difference to the care and treatment The Christie is able to provide to patients and their families.