The new 'comfort call' service helping Hartlepool patients from their homes
A new volunteer-led cancer service is providing extra support for patients and their loved ones without making the trip to hospital.
The new ‘comfort call’ service allows patients and their families to chat on the phone with trained volunteers at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s Macmillan cancer information centre.
The new service began in February this year at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic as a pilot scheme.
The scheme, run in conjunction with the National Cancer Programme, works to deploy existing volunteers in new virtual roles.
The volunteers offer emotional support over the phone to anyone affected by cancer – whether that is a patient undergoing cancer treatment, or a family member or friend having a hard time coming to terms with a loved one’s diagnosis.
Anyone who would like to access the service can simply get in touch with the cancer information centre to book a time and a volunteer will phone them for a chat.
Alan Chandler, Macmillan information and survivorship manager at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Providing the comfort call service has been a real success. Patient feedback has been really positive and our volunteers really enjoy making the calls.
“Our volunteers are amazing and are at the heart of everything we do. Without their dedication and commitment, we could not provide our current level of service.
“If anyone feels they would benefit from a call, please do get in touch.”
Sue Carter, from Trimdon, is a 74-year-old volunteer in the cancer information centre at the University Hospital of North Tees.
She said: “I talk to people who are maybe having a hard time. They are managing hard circumstances and if having a chat with me brings them out of their little bubble for half an hour then I have achieved something.”
The volunteers can talk about anything non-medical and offer a listening ear to people affected by cancer.
She added: “Sometimes they need a bit of emotional support, other times they just fancy a chat to take their mind off things. We can talk about anything – pastimes, hobbies, TV, I had a conversation about hedgehogs the other day."
The comfort calls were rolled out in order to meet the needs of cancer service provision to support NHS frontline services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a recent survey carried out by the trust, all cancer service users who participated in the pilot reported that they felt they had received emotional support from the phone calls with many saying this had a direct impact on their mental health.
One patient, who wished to remain anonymous, commented: “It was an emotional time because it had been a year to the day when I started shielding.
“I felt listened to and thoroughly enjoyed it – I was able to speak about my concerns.”
If you would like to book a comfort call appointment, please contact the team on 01642 383041 or [email protected]
If you’re interested in volunteering with the Trust please visit the volunteer page or get in touch with the volunteering team on 01642 383933 or [email protected]