A dial-a-buddy service has been launched for the hundreds of people afraid of facing hospital appointments for cancer checks.
And the news comes just days after the Hartlepool Mail told how 670 people missed vital appointments in one year alone for a string of reasons including fear factor.
The West View Advice & Resource Centre in Hartlepool has stepped in to help people referred by their GPs to hospitals to see if they had cancer - and were anxious about going.
It has a two-pronged approach.
l - There’s advice and information for people who just want some extra detail.
l - And there’s a Buddy Support Service where people can get the support of someone who will go with them to the appointments.
We are encouraging people to seek advice and information early in their cancer journeys. We have found that people leave it until it is at crisis pointDawn Vincent
It all comes with an important message from the West View centre’s project manager Dawn Vincent and her team - don’t leave it too late to get help.
“We are encouraging people to seek advice and information early in their cancer journeys. We have found that people leave it until it is at crisis point.
“We can provide advice in a range of areas such as welfare benefits, employment advice for people who are worried about whether they can continue work, and energy advice.
“We encourage people to find out sooner so that they are better prepared.”
The other side of the new service is the buddy support scheme. Anyone facing an appointment can have the support of someone who has either had cancer themselves, or has supported someone with it.
Dawn added: “They are there to be that shoulder to lean on.”
Buddies can be there to support people at their hospital appointments and that could be especially helpful for people attending for the first time - and still waiting to find out whether they have cancer or not.
“People might have questions about the appointment and what happens next.
“We have recruited three volunteers to support people.”
Just last week, the Hartlepool Mail first told of the referrals being missed by the hundreds.
A string of reasons have been cited including fear, people not taking in the advice being given to them, and some patients even wanting to go on holiday because they had already booked to go away.
Figures given to the Hartlepool Mail showed 9,394 Hartlepool and Stockton people were sent to hospital on the urgent two-week referral scheme in the 2015-16 financial year, yet 670 of those missed the appointment.
In just one month, July this year, 78 people missed the appointment which was almost 10% of everyone given a referral.
The figures were released by the Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group which covers two local authority areas made up of 38 GP practices of all types and sizes, serving nearly 300,000 patients.
But project workers in West View are leading the fightback and the search is also on for more people to come forward and join the fight.
Dawn added; “Voluntary roles are available to help support both the project and West View Advice and those are Volunteer Buddy and Volunteer Advice Worker.
“More information can be found about both these roles on our website www.wvarc30.org.uk or by calling the office on (01429) 271294.”
WHAT DOES THE SERVICE OFFER.
l Free confidential advice is available on welfare benefits, debt, employment, housing, energy advice, and applying for help towards health costs.
l The Cancer Advice, Information And Buddy Support Service is being led by West View Advice & Resource Centre which has delivered free confidential advice in Hartlepool for over 30 years.
l It covers both Stockton and Hartlepool. The Stockton area is supported by the partner Stockton District Advice and Information Service.
l It aims to directly improve the take-up rate of the two-week referral appointments.
l To find out more, ring (01429) 271294 between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Friday.