Shelley Ewuse-Sam (right) opens Info Space at Basildon Hospital
People living with cancer are receiving better information and support, thanks to a joint project between Basildon University Hospital, Macmillan Cancer Support and St Luke's Hospice.
An area has been created in out-patients reception of the hospital where patients, relatives and carers can talk to trained advisors and volunteers. Visitors can get advice on a range of topics, including information about their condition, available benefits, complementary therapies and support groups.
Info Space was funded by Macmillan, and is staffed by hospital counsellors and a trained advisor from St Luke's Hospice, along with volunteers and the Macmillan welfare benefits team. There is a comfortable seating area behind a screen where people can stop for information and a chat.
The Info Space has been open a year. Since then, nearly 500 cancer patients and over 300 relatives and carers have received advice and support from the service.
This week, (Tuesday 3 July) Info Space was officially opened by one of the first patients to benefit from the new service. Shelley Ewuse-Sam, 52, from Basildon, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. She had treatment at Basildon and Southend hospitals, which she says was excellent, and then continued to attend Basildon University Hospital for oncology appointments. When the Info Space opened, she stopped to talk to Myfanwy Howells, one of the advisors.
Shelley said: "It might sound dramatic, but the Info Space really changed my life. At the time I was suffering from depression and panic attacks. As well as coping with my condition, I had lost three members of my family. Myfanwy encouraged me to go to bereavement counselling, and I did this at St Luke's Hospice, which was a great help.
"I continued dropping in to talk to Myfanwy; she always made me feel welcome and following my talks with her I went to art therapy and creative writing sessions, which also really helped me. Some people might think the Info Space is just an area with information leaflets, but it is so much more than that. It has been like a wonderful comfort blanket for me."
Hannah Coffey, Director of Operations at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, thanked staff from the Trust, Macmillan and St Luke's Hospice for their work on the Info Space venture.
She said: "Macmillan kindly provided funding for the project, and everyone involved has worked hard to make it a success. Not only can we signpost cancer patients and their families to other useful services and help them make sense of what support is available, but most importantly of all, we can offer an empathetic ear during a very difficult time."