Ben Sansum from delivery partners AgeUK Bristol gives us his take on what delivering a Cancer, Older People and Advocacy service has been like so far…
The Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project is a serious piece of work, which often involves working with people in very difficult situations. Despite this one of the joys of the project so far has been how keen different organisations are to partner with us at Age UK Bristol to make sure that the project reaches those older people who are most in need of help and support.
From the beginning we have been very lucky to have significant help from our local Macmillan Cancer Support services. At a regional level, the Regional Involvement Coordinator, Tracey Street, has been invaluable in introducing us to other parts of Macmillan. Closer to the front-line we have developed a very good working relationship with several Macmillan services that work directly with the public. The coordinator for our local Macmillan ‘Buddies’ scheme, Piers Cardiff, sits on our Local Cancer Champions Board, and has been great at identifying training opportunities for us, as well as referring ‘Buddies’ clients who need more in-depth advocacy to us for us to help. Through Piers we have been introduced to the staff and volunteers at the Macmillan Wellbeing Centre at Southmead Hospital, which directly led to us recruiting our first volunteer who has actually committed to doing the training and becoming an advocate.
Between them Tracey and Piers have helped spread the word about our project to the huge range of Macmillan services across the city, including the CAB/Macmillan Welfare Advice service, and the Cancer Information & Support Centre at the Bristol Haematology & Oncology Centre (BHOC). These links have led to us having a large article in the BHOC ‘Voice’ magazine, which will be circulated among patients and staff for the next six months, giving us a very high profile among those people most likely to need the support of our Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project.
Beyond Macmillan we are building very useful partnerships with all kinds of organisations, from the social services department in the local authority to the human resources department at Bristol University. Most pleasingly we are starting to build a good rapport with a range of NHS services, including district nurses and home visitors, and the Long-Term Conditions Team at one of our largest inner-city health centres. It is always encouraging to meet with hard-pressed, time-poor professionals working on the most difficult cases, who still find time to meet with us because they think it will be beneficial for many of their patients.
Partnership working has a cumulative effect – the more you do it, to more word spreads, the more other people and organisations want to talk to you. It has proved key in the work of the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project in Bristol so far, and we hope it continues to develop.
Ben Sansum, AgeUK Bristol