Category Archives: Services

Five ways we can support people at end of life


Here at Macmillan, we’re supporting Dying Matters Awareness Week (8th-14th May). It’s an important opportunity to talk about dying, death and bereavement and how we can support people in such times of need.

This year’s Awareness Week poses the question ‘What Can You Do?’

We know that everyone dying from cancer will have different experiences at different times. Reaching the end of life can be very difficult and may create many practical and emotional issues for those affected to work through.

Our focus is on making sure the right care is in place so everyone’s individual needs can be met.

Let’s look at what Macmillan can do right now for people who are nearing the end of their life.

  1. We can help people to find practical and emotional support at the end of life and through bereavement

Our Information and Support Services provide people with face-to-face assistance in every Trust’s cancer units. We also have free information and advice available online, through our Macmillan Support Line, in public libraries and elsewhere in communities.

  1. We can help our Macmillan Professionals develop the skills needed to provide high quality care

Having the right cancer workforce in place is a priority for Macmillan and we have more than 170 professionals working in hospitals and communities across NI. Many are directly responsible for providing end of life care and support to people affected by cancer. Some examples are our specialist palliative care nurses, GPs and various Allied Health Professionals. All our healthcare professionals are provided with opportunities to learn more about how to meet the needs of people affected by cancer at different stages.

  1. We can enable more people to use Advance Care Planning to record their wishes about how they receive care

Having an Advance Care Plan means that health and social care professionals will know what’s important to the individual and can make appropriate decisions. We have worked with the Public Health Agency to create ‘Your life and choices: plan ahead’ which is a booklet full of information on how to record your wishes.

  1. We can use our Community Palliative Pharmacy Project to help more people at the end of life stage to cope at home

This two-year project is underway right across NI. We have a Service Improvement Pharmacist in every Health and Social Care Trust, liaising with staff across the whole area including community pharmacies. This helps to ensure they have the right stock and training to address any issues. The project also aims for better quality of life for people receiving end of life care by avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions. We know that care at home is what most people would prefer and will continue seek new ways to make this possible.

  1. We can influence wider work to improve palliative and end of life care

Macmillan contributed to the development and implementation of the Department of Health’s Living Matters, Dying Matters strategy (2010-15). This is the most significant policy relating to end of life care to be created in NI in recent years. We now want to see new policy developments for ongoing progress in end of life care and patient experience. We are calling for a new dedicated cancer strategy for NI, including improvements in the quality and availability of personalised end of life care.

We know that too many people still lack access to appropriate end of life care and support. Right now, cancer is the cause of more than 1 in 4 deaths in NI. With more people being diagnosed than ever before, the need for high quality, personalised care will increase.

No matter which party takes responsibility for health and social care when the current political uncertainty ends, there’s no doubt that dying matters. Palliative and end of life care must remain high on the agenda and strategic decisions will be needed to ensure the right services are in place in the future.

Move More NI is up and running


Macmillan’s Heather Monteverde, boxer Michael Conlon and Sports Minister Paul Givan at Titanic Belfast to launch Move More

Macmillan is delighted to have launched the Move More programme, a new initiative aiming to help people living with cancer in Northern Ireland to benefit from physical activity as a part of a healthy lifestyle.

So far schemes in Antrim & Newtownabbey and Ards & North Down are underway, involving an individually-tailored programme of physical activity. The service consists of 11 projects, meaning people in every council area can be supported to become and stay active at level that’s right for them.

Three more schemes are set to be rolled out by the end of 2016, in Belfast City Council, Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon council and Lisburn & Castlereagh areas. Macmillan will continue to work with district councils, Health and Social Care Trusts and physical activity providers to ensure Move More is established right across Northern Ireland.

A growing body of evidence shows physical activity can play a vital role in helping to prevent cancer recurrence,  reduce the spread of the disease and slow disease progression as well as mitigating side effects and consequences of treatment such as fatigue.

Speaking at the launch in Titanic Belfast, Professor Jane Maher, Joint Chief Medical Officer at Macmillan Cancer Support said: “We want to see physical activity play a much more prominent role during both treatment and recovery, and it is great to see that people affected by cancer in Northern Ireland now have the opportunity to benefit.”

Take five minutes with our video and find out how people living with cancer are already feeling the benefits of Move More schemes. Click here to visit our YouTube page.

Exciting times at Altnagelvin

Tara Boyle is the Macmillan Capital Project Manager for the new health and wellbeing campus at Altnagelvin, incorporating the new Macmillan Support Centre.

Paula, Tara & Andy close up

(Pictured L-R: Macmillan’s Paula Kealey, Tara Boyle and Andy from TAL).

It’s exciting times at Altnagelvin because the roof is on and the new Macmillan Support Centre is really taking shape.

As the Capital Project Manager, I’ve been working closely with the Macmillan design team right from the word go.  I’m responsible for keeping everything within budget and on schedule so I spend a lot of my time monitoring progress on site in my hard hat and checking in with Andy and the construction crew from TAL.

 The new health and wellbeing campus is being built on the perimeter of the Altnagelvin hospital site and will incorporate Agnes Jones House, a beautiful turn-of-the century building.  Thanks to the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Agnes Jones is being refurbished and will house facilities for people with long term conditions.  The two buildings, old and new, will be linked by a landscaped courtyard.

The new campus – the first of its kind in Northern Ireland – is still a building site and very much a work in progress.  No sign of a garden yet. But you can take a virtual tour by viewing our digital fly through here.

Visitors to the Macmillan Support Centre will enter into a bright, welcoming and relaxing environment.  The central reception area will provide easy access to all the facilities.

There will be a library leading into a large communal lounge, which has access to an outdoor space – offering privacy and calm.

In addition to bright and open public spaces, there will be a dedicated suite of rooms where individuals can receive counselling, benefits advice, wig and prosthesis fitting, or complementary therapies.

And we’ve made sure there’s a larger room for group activities such as art therapy, gentle exercise classes, support group meetings and training sessions for volunteers and staff.

The Macmillan Support Centre has been designed with input from people affected by cancer.  I really feel privileged to be doing this job because I know the real difference that the centre and new campus will make to the lives of people affected by cancer and other long term conditions.

It’s been fascinating to be part of every stage of development – from the drawing board to the construction site.

I can’t wait for the finished product and to welcome visitors through those doors.

Why every cancer patient should get benefits advice

Jean Murray is a Macmillan CAB benefits adviser, based at the Mater Hospital in Belfast

I started out as a volunteer adviser with Citizens Advice Belfast but, for the last 18 months, I’ve been working as a Macmillan CAB benefits adviser on site, here at the Mater.

I’m on hand to help people who are being treated for cancer with benefits checks and applications, as well as more complex case work. It’s so important to be working in a hospital setting because it means I’m ready to get the ball rolling, as soon as they are diagnosed.  I’ve been able to build good working relationships with the nurses and social workers which has increased the number of referrals coming from the Mater site to our service. I can visit clients on the ward, make an appointment to see them in my office, which is just across the road, or carry out a telephone appointment.

Many of the cancer patients I see are in a state of shock.  Their lives have been turned upside down.  All of a sudden, they’re facing a life-changing diagnosis and a potential loss of income, if they or their partner have to stop working.  Few are aware of which benefits payments they can claim and people are always telling me that they wouldn’t have known where to start because many have never had to deal with our complex welfare system.  It can be overwhelming at the best of times.

I’m proud to say that, last year alone, Macmillan’s network of benefits advisers in Northern Ireland helped over 6,000 people with cancer claim more than £14 million in benefits payments and patient grants.  Here in Belfast, I and my colleagues made sure our clients – all 2,285 of them – received more than £5 million in ongoing welfare entitlements and one-off grants.

It’s a huge amount of money, if you think that many of these new claimants might not have known about their entitlements without the specialist advice service that I and the team of Macmillan CAB advisers provide.

Northern Ireland has the highest level of fuel poverty in the UK and this has resulted in a disproportionate number of cancer patients needing financial help to cover heating bills. Research by Macmillan has found that three out of four people in Northern Ireland find themselves, on average, around £300 a month worse off as a result of a cancer diagnosis, due to their reduced incomes and increased expenses.

I’m here to maximise their income with patient grants to cover things like the cost of getting to and from hospital, or heating bills. People going through chemotherapy or radiotherapy often tell me that they feel the cold more, but are worried about paying to keep their homes warm.

That’s why I would like to see every cancer patient referred for benefits advice to help to stop escalating financial difficulties and worries at a time when people should only have to focus on their health.

For financial support and to find a nearby face-to-face benefits advisor visit or call free on 0808 808 00 00

Providing specialist cancer care when patients need it most

Sam Keers from Dromore was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year.  He underwent chemotherapy and was given a helpline number to ring, in case he developed serious side effects.  Sam says he saw this as his ‘guarantee card’ because it guaranteed him specialist care, when he needed it most.

More Sam and Laura

When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, I was told it was at an advanced stage. My consultant explained that there was no cure, but that chemotherapy could extend my life expectancy and buy me time.

I knew that, if I could get to enjoy another two years of life, I had to try.  I was determined to spend as much time with my wonderful grandchildren as possible.

So, even though I was worried about the possible side effects of chemotherapy, I said yes to the treatment.

I didn’t go into it blind. Staff at the Mandeville unit at Craigavon Area Hospital explained the effect chemotherapy might have and what could go wrong.  I knew my life was on the line because of my cancer and also because of the treatment.

Luckily for me, the Southern Health and Social Care Trust had already established an Acute Oncology Service – the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

I was given a helpline number to call and I saw this as my ‘guarantee card’.

I spent most of my working life in the commercial sector, where guarantees are key. And where, if you make a promise, you have to deliver on that promise.

After one session of chemotherapy, I went home but suddenly became very unwell. I developed a very high temperature and so, instead of heading for the Emergency Department, I phoned the Acute Oncology helpline.

Staff on the end of the line were reassuring and, above all, caring.

I went to hospital and, within thirty minutes, I was on a drip in the chemotherapy unit and admitted to hospital with neutropenic sepsis.  Chemotherapy can cause your white blood cell count to drop, making you more prone to infection.  And that’s what had happened to me.

I was discharged and allowed home after four days because I had been treated so quickly.  Thanks to the Acute Oncology team, made up of Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialists, together with a doctor, my care was well coordinated.

When you are receiving chemotherapy, it can be very frightening if you develop side effects, but knowing this service was in place gave me the reassurance and confidence I needed to continue with my treatment.

Not only was I grateful for the specialist care I received but I was overwhelmed by the manner and spirit in which it was delivered.

It really is a magnificent service.


Helping people with cancer make the most of physical activity


Diarmaid McAuley is the Macmillan Physical Activity Manager in Northern Ireland.

A recent and growing body of evidence has highlighted that being physically active during and after cancer treatment can provide a variety of positive health and wellbeing benefits that improve clinical and quality of life outcomes. Following an active lifestyle has been shown to:

  • Reduce the consequences of treatment,
  • Reduce co-morbidities,
  • Reduce disease progression,
  • Decrease mortality,
  • Decrease recurrence.

For the last 16 months, I have been working as the Macmillan Physical Activity Manager in Northern Ireland. My role is to ensure that everyone living with cancer is aware of the benefits of physical activity and can choose to become active at a level that’s right for them.

In my previous role with Sport Northern Ireland, my primary responsibility was to manage and coordinate ‘Active Communities’. This £14million investment programme is designed to increase participation in physical activity, especially among under-represented groups. The position offered me the opportunity to work with a diverse range of key stakeholders, with the aim of supporting the least active in our society to initiate and sustain active lifestyles. That experience and those partnerships are particularly relevant to my work with Macmillan.

We are currently working to establish ‘Move More Northern Ireland’, a project that will provide people living with and beyond cancer with the support, encouragement and motivation. They will receive information about the benefits of physical activity from healthcare professionals, opportunities to participate in a wide variety of activities tailored to their individual needs and interests, and the behaviour change support that they may require to remain active.

As we develop ‘Move More Northern Ireland’, we are working with key partners including health and social care trusts, district councils, healthy living centres, community and voluntary organisations, other physical activity providers. Our goal is to maximise the physical activity opportunities that already exist throughout Northern Ireland, and where gaps in provision exist, we are working to find solutions.

Crucially, we recognise the need for diversity. Physical activity means different things to different people – for some, it may mean getting along to a gym, going swimming, taking an exercise class or getting involved in sport. For others, it could mean walking a little further each day or joining a walking group, doing some gardening, or being active with children and grandchildren.

The project will support people living with and beyond cancer to identify the opportunities that work best for them, to access those opportunities at a time and place which is convenient, and to find a way to ensure that physical activity becomes an integrated part of their lifestyle.

Move More Northern Ireland will be launched this year to support people living with cancer to enjoy an improved quality of life by becoming and remaining active.