Clinician resource for patient support



Getting the right support and information to people affected by cancer is a priority for Cancer Council’s Information and Support Services team and the driver for a new online referral system for health professionals. Katherine Lane, Head of Cancer Information and Support Services at Cancer Council Victoria, leads a team of people including oncology nurses who respond to more than 9,000 requests for information and support from Victorians each year.

"Our aim is to deliver supportive care that complements existing services provided by health professionals, fills in any gaps and, particularly during COVID, helps ease any resourcing pressures," says Katherine.

Until now, Cancer Council has relied on patients contacting them for support via their 13 11 20 support line or emailing through their website, but with the implementation of an online referral form for clinicians and health professionals, a proactive approach can be taken to delivering supportive care.

The cancer support referral form has been developed to provide health professionals with a simple way to direct anyone affected by cancer to Cancer Council’s supportive care services. It began as a project in August 2020 with a pilot at Stawell Regional Health. The online form ensures that patients and carers get the additional support they need at a time when they need it the most. The clinician or health professional fills in the online form while the patient is with them, gaining their consent to share their information with Cancer Council. The referral form takes 5–7 minutes to complete. When the form has been submitted, the patient receives an email confirming that their health professional has referred them for supportive care and advises that a cancer nurse will call them within two business days to discuss their needs with them. The clinician receives a confirmation message that the referral has been submitted. The suggested time for referral is after the health professional has completed supportive care screening.

A Cancer Council nurse will contact patients directly within the two business days and undertake a thorough needs assessment and distress screening.

The nurse helps patients navigate the health system and refers them to Cancer Council services such as financial counselling, peer support and psycho-oncology services. Cancer Council provides the referring health professional with an update on the support provided to the referred patient.

Our nurses also have access to a directory with more than 470 cancer support services, health services, and practical and emotional supports in metro and regional areas. This includes for different stages of care - from diagnosis, treatment and cancer survivorship. Examples include wig services, palliative care services and NFP organisations. Since August 2020, Cancer Council has received online cancer support referrals from 35 different health services, 31% of which are from treatment centres in rural/regional areas.

"By referring patients directly to Cancer Council, you’re proactively helping them to get assistance at a time when they may be feeling most vulnerable," Katherine concludes. "This allows our nurses to help address patient and carer concerns and provide early intervention where possible, thus reducing stress and improving outcomes."

If you’d like to find out more about this referral process, or to discuss any specific supportive care services that your healthcare team needs, please contact <Katherine.lane@cancervic.org.au>.