New service ensures more young patients receive age appropriate care across Northern Ireland

A new service providing age appropriate clinical and psychosocial support to teenagers and young adults (TYA) living with cancer across Northern Ireland has been launched.

The announcement will see the expansion of the current Teenage and Young  Adult (TYA) Cancer Service at the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre, Belfast City Hospital, where young people have been receiving specialist care and support suited to their needs since it was established in 2012.  The considerable expansion of the service will now bring an enhanced specialist support network consisting of specialist nurses, social workers, a young person’s community worker, ward support specialist and a data manager beyond the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and the four cancer units across all the main Trusts, allowing more young people across Northern Ireland to avail of the vital service.

The new Northern Ireland Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Service is supported by 5 local and national charities.  The collaborative approach between the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity, Cancer Fund for Children, CLIC Sargent, Friends of the Cancer Centre and Teenage Cancer Trust is underpinning the regional NI TYA Cancer Service Model.

Welcoming the expansion of the service, Colleen Shaw, chief executive of Friends of the Cancer Centre, said:

“Friends of the Cancer Centre has been supporting young people with cancer since 2013 when we funded our CNS for Teenagers and Young Adults, Renee Reid, who became an integral part of the Teenager and Young Adult service at the Cancer Centre.  Renee was the first and only nurse of her kind in Northern Ireland and since coming into post we have seen the incredible difference she, as well as the TYA social work team, have made to the lives of so many young people and their families.  Now, thanks to the incredible support we receive from the public, our commitment is going one step further and we’re delighted to now fund another nurse for young people, Rachel Quinn.  The expansion of this vital service will ensure even more young people can avail of this excellent, age appropriate care and support at hospitals across Northern Ireland.”

Darren McKinley, Teenage & Young Adults Project Manager with the Northern Ireland Cancer Network, NICaN welcomed the support of the charities. Speaking at the event he said:

“For many years, young people with cancer have been benefitting from the fantastic support of the TYA service based at the Cancer Centre in Belfast and we have seen the difference this specialist support network has had on young patients and their families.  With the support of the local and national charities we have been able to expand the service and widen the reach of this support network, offering a Nursing, Support and Psychosocial outreach model beyond Belfast and across all of Northern Ireland. As a result more teenage and young adults with cancer can now access the best possible outcomes and have access to age appropriate specialist service regardless of where they live or are treated in Northern Ireland.”

The Teenage and Young Adult Project Steering Group was established in 2014 and reported in June 2015, making a series of recommendations which have led to the roll out of a regional service.  Speaking at today’s event in the Tullyglass Hotel in Ballymena Dr Anthony McCarthy Consultant Paediatric Oncologist in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children said:

“The treatment and care of Teenage and Young Adults with cancer is a distinct specialism in the treatment of cancer. The aim of the regional service is to provide specialist cancer care for teenagers and young adults, to improve cancer treatment outcomes, to reduce mortality rates and to provide support for patients and their families as they go through their cancer treatment, and beyond.

“A lot of work has gone into putting appropriate regional structures in place and the clinical staff behind the service are very appreciative of the support of all of the charities which has made this service realisable,” he added.

The TYA regional model is based on establishing and maintaining a nursing support and psychosocial outreach model across Northern Ireland. The regional model is financed entirely by charitable organisations who provide a total of £225,000 per annum. These vital funds support nursing staff, social workers, a young person’s community based worker and a ward support specialist, all of whom are spread across the 5 Health and Social Care Trusts.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride commented: “We can all agree that any cancer diagnosis represents a crisis on a personal and family level. However a diagnosis for a teenager and young adult who is starting out on the next stage of their life and making plans for their future is particularly cruel.

“While services already exist for young people in Northern Ireland, this new service has the potential to ensure those with a cancer diagnosis can attain the best possible outcomes. I very much welcome the work which has been carried out to address the special care that these young adults and teenagers need in their cancer treatment.”

Pictured at the launch of the TYA service at the Tullyglass Hotel are (L-R) Liz Osbourne, Cancer Fund for Children, Jacqueline Wilkinson, CCUC, Simon Fuller, Teenage Cancer Trust, Colleen Shaw, Friends of the Cancer Centre and Kate Lee, Clic Sargent. (Front) Darren McKinley with our young representatives James Doggart and Leona McManus.

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