Innovative Cancer Hub Reduces ED Visits For Patients

Innovative cancer hub reduces emergency department visits for oncology and haematology patients

Bangor woman Kate Burns has been attending the new Triage Unit in the Ulster Hospital’s Macmillan Cancer Unit.

She said: “As a cancer patient, I try to remain positive, I am very nervous being in an Emergency Department environment with so many illnesses and infections, so it is wonderful to have direct access to the Triage Unit where I am less anxious.” 

The innovative acute oncology hub is a significant step forward in the care of Oncology and Haematology patients, designed to improve accessibility to cancer services and help prevent cancer patients who are very unwell from attending the Emergency Department.

It is specifically tailored to meet the complex needs of oncology and haematology patients who often require urgent medical attention due to complications arising from their treatments or from cancer itself.

By offering a holistic, focused and highly responsive service, the Triage Unit aims to deliver a higher standard of patient care ensuring they have access to specialised and timely care in a dedicated environment.

Savanna McConnell carrying out observation with patient Kate Burns from Bangor. (Photos courtesy of the SEHSCT).

The Triage Unit is open each day from 8.00 am – 6.00 pm and is staffed by a team of experienced oncology healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses and support staff, who are dedicated to providing comprehensive care tailored to the individual needs of each patient.  

A direct helpline is available to cancer patients to access where they can ring and speak to a nurse who will assess them over the phone and offer advice or where necessary, arrange for them to come up to the Triage Unit for further treatment and admission, without the need to attend the Emergency Department.

However, in some circumstances where patients are very unwell or have an acute medical problem, they may still need to attend the Emergency Department for appropriate treatment.

Praising the unit, Bangor patient, Kate Burns who has used the Triage Unit on several occasions added: “I was diagnosed with Lymphoma and I had an episode where I had to attend the Emergency Department as I became unwell, this made me really anxious.

” am very prone to infections and I required a hospital admission. The second time I became unwell my temperature spiked, so I contacted the Triage Unit helpline and they told me to come up to the unit. 

“By the time I arrived, they had my IV medication ready for me which was fantastic. I was then admitted for further treatment.

Staff nurse Evie Poag in the Triage Unit.

“As a cancer patient, I try to remain positive, I am very nervous being in an Emergency Department environment with so many illnesses and infections, so it is wonderful to have direct access to the Triage Unit where I am less anxious.

“It has totally made a difference. The staff are incredible and so dedicated.  When you come in they make you feel so at ease. I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done for me, there are just no words.”

Explaining the benefits of the Triage Unit, Clinical Director for Cancer Services, Dr David Alderdice said: “Patients can be seen in the unit by a team of staff who they are already familiar with and they can arrange a treatment pathway. 

“Cancer patients are immuno-compromised, so there are risks in attending other units, especially the Emergency Department which is incredibly busy with patients at risk of infection. 

“We want to be able to keep our patients safe and the Triage Unit helps to do just that. 

“The Triage Unit is a great resource for our patients. It provides a safe, supportive and efficient environment where they can receive the immediate care they need from a team of oncology specialists.

“It not only enhances the patient experience, but also helps to alleviate pressures on our Emergency Department.”

Lead Nurse, Claire Black added, “Within the unit, we provide a holistic wrap-around service for our patients.  They know the environment and the staff that they are coming to and they can often feel very vulnerable. 

“The unit really helps alleviate these anxieties where they do not have to sit in a busy waiting room.

“The team of staff in the Triage Unit are extremely dedicated going above and beyond to provide the best care to their patients.”

The roll-out of the Triage Unit is part of the Ulster Hospital’s ongoing commitment to enhancing cancer care services and ensuring that patients receive the best possible support throughout their treatment journey.

This initiative reflects a broader strategy to integrate and streamline oncology services, focusing on patient-centred care.