Emergency lifeline opens for cancer patients | News from St Bartholomew's

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Emergency lifeline opens for cancer patients

Cancer assessment unit team on the 5th floor at Barts

A purpose built facility for cancer patients who become unwell during their treatment has opened at Barts Health.

The cancer assessment unit (CAU) helps to keep cancer patients who are vulnerable to infection away from busy emergency departments and means they are supported by specialist staff, should they have side effects from chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

It is located on the 7th floor in St Bartholomew’s Hospital's modern King George V building and comes equipped with a 24 hour helpline to offer advice out of hours.

A temporary CAU was established at the start of the Covid pandemic on the 5th floor of KGV, following concerns that cancer patients would catch Covid, which was in circulation in the community.

Construction has been completed on the multi-million pound project which secures a permanent home for this important service and quadruples current capacity to around 70 patients per week.

It features installations by the artist Freya Stockford, commissioned by our in-house experts, Vital Arts.

Moving the CAU to the 7th floor means we have been able to extend the chemotherapy suite on the 5th floor, creating a number of extra treatment chairs and minimising any delays for those waiting for treatment.

The plans were developed in partnership with cancer patients from across our local area.

Leandra O’Sullivan was diagnosed with stage three colorectal cancer in March 2019. She received treatment including radiotherapy and chemotherapy at St Bartholomew’s and was heavily involved in the design.

As construction began, Leandra (pictured centre) said: "Having a cancer diagnosis can be complicated. A low immune system can cause other illnesses including colds and viruses, vomiting and diarrhoea and even a risk of sepsis. When I was unwell, I would visit my local the emergency department, and whilst the teams there work extremely hard, they didn’t know me and my treatment plan.

Cancer acute assessment unit team view the construction site

"Now I can communicate directly with the chemo team at Barts. They assess me as a cancer patient, advising and caring for me in the right way. This security takes away some of the anxiety and fear we feel with a cancer diagnosis. And it’s really nice to get to know the team looking after me on a regular basis."

Sadly Leandra died late last year, before the unit was complete, but her legacy lives on in the unit’s welcoming and calming design, including the use of natural light.

Divisional manager Will Brunt said: "This is an exciting development for the Barts Cancer Centre with big benefits for patients. I want to pay tribute to our teams for making it a reality and to Leandra whose ideas guided and inspired us along the way. Now we're open, we will be speaking to patients and staff and reviewing any feedback to make sure it's the best possible support for our cancer patients."

Meanwhile, the NHS has singled out Barts Health for our exceptional progress in reducing the time it takes for patients to receive their test results of suspected cancer. 

78% of patients currently receive their results within 4-weeks, which exceeds the national target of 75%.

Pictured top of page: Cancer centre staff in the expanded chemotherapy unit at St Bartholomew's Hospital; middle: Leandra and members of the cancer service at St Bartholomew's during construction of the CAU; below: the team ready to welcome their first patients to the expanded treatment unit. 

Cancer assessment unit at St Bartholomew's Hospital

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  1. Amina Sunday, 28 April 2024 at 08:58 PM

    Hi I am very interested to know a bit more for example if a cancer patient came to A&E can they be told that they should contact your dept instead of waiting many hours as they are at risk getting any kind of infections if it’s crowded is there a phone number they could contact

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