A pioneering specialist speech and language therapy service for people affected by cancer has been shortlisted for one of the allied health professions’ most prestigious awards.
The Liverpool Head and Neck Centre Speech and Language Therapy Cancer Team are finalists in the NHS England Chief Allied Health Professions Officer Awards 2023, thanks to the innovative way they have improved care for people whose speech or swallowing has been affected by cancer.
The team have developed a unique service that combines the talents of staff from The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and involves patients in designing how it is run and how care is provided.
Head and neck cancer – which includes cancer affecting the mouth, throat and tongue – is three times more common in parts of Cheshire and Merseyside than elsewhere in England.
Surgery, radiotherapy and other head and neck cancer treatments can affect people’s ability to speak or swallow – for example, patients may need to have a feeding tube inserted if they have difficulty eating. Specialist speech and language therapy plays an important role in helping them manage the effects and improve their ability to speak or swallow.
The Liverpool service has now been shortlisted for the AHP Innovation and Improvement in Integrated Care Systems category of the NHS England Chief Allied Health Professions Officer Awards 2023 because of the benefits that have resulted from delivering a joined-up service across different hospitals.
By creating a single specialist cancer speech and language therapy team with staff from The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, they have been able to make sure that patients are cared for by the right experts at the right time wherever they are being treated.
Important decisions such as whether someone is well enough for their feeding tube to be removed can now be made more quickly because the teams work as one. This joined-up working also means that patients can be fast-tracked to the right clinical team in either hospital without needing to be referred by their GP.
Another benefit is that patients don’t have to keep repeating their symptoms to staff at different hospitals because team members now have all the same information wherever they are. Patients have been fully involved in shaping the new service with the team, highlighting what worked well and what could be better so the right changes are made.
The Liverpool team were initially able to pilot the new service thanks to funding from partners including Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance, Macmillan Cancer Support, and Health Education England.
Joan Spencer, Chief Operating Officer at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Patients are at the heart of everything we do. The team identified an opportunity to improve speech and language therapy for people with cancer by creating this new service and really listening to what their patients wanted. As a result, we have received great patient feedback and we now offer a high-quality seamless service across different hospitals. It’s fantastic to see the team’s hard work and dedication recognised in this way and we are so proud of them.”
Alexandra Spearritt, Deputy Divisional Director of Allied Health Professions at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our patients that we care for who have cancer often need care from different teams in different hospitals so it’s really important that we all work together to make their care as seamless and stress-free as possible. Our specialist head and neck cancer speech and language therapy team’s innovations have had a remarkable impact on patient recovery and overall patient experience. We are delighted and very proud that they have been shortlisted for this major award.”
Professor Terry Jones, Director of Liverpool Head and Neck Centre, which is a formal partnership between the University of Liverpool, The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, Liverpool University Hospitals and The Walton Centre, said: “Gold standard, innovative speech and language therapy can make a huge difference to people recovering from treatment for head and neck cancer and the Liverpool team are experts in their field. They have worked incredibly hard to design a service that delivers the best for their patients and I am thrilled that they have been shortlisted for this award.”
Pictured above: Members of the specialist cancer speech and language therapy team.