Changing the conversation about health

Penny Brohn: multi-disciplinary collaboration, communication and professional practice


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Penny Brohn Cancer Care’s services all follow the “Penny Brohn Whole Person Approach”, designed to work alongside medical treatment. The courses content includes:

  • Lifestyle advice, information, complementary therapies and self-help techniques
  • Support through treatment and recovery
  • Support for positive health, physical and psychological wellbeing

Using a whole person, patient-centred living well approach Penny Brohn Cancer Care aims to provide physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual support, by helping people to integrate useful lifestyle self-help techniques and other complementary therapies and support into their journey with cancer.

The client is very much at the centre of all our work. We have consistent evaluation and audit of client experience and alter services accordingly. We have regular meetings with clients to evaluate their experience and use of services. We see that the choices of the client and the clients voice are at the centre of services.

Overview of Penny Brohn Service Pathway

Treatment Support Clinic – for people undergoing active treatment this half-day clinic provides emotional and physical support, and lifestyle advice. The clinic encourages people to care for their own wellbeing – reducing side effects; and to make changes likely to improve their quality of life.

Health & Wellbeing Clinic – (hospital and community based) a group clinic approach that is patient-centred with a strong emphasis on informed choice, leading to an increased ability to self-manage as well as signposted to other services.

Living Well Course – for those who need further support to improve the day-to-day experience of living with cancer through realistic, workable action planning and other self-help techniques.

Follow Up Services – light touch interventions to maintain lifestyle changes and support wellbeing. These are offered as follow up days but also as online support and information services.

Follow On Services – for those with more complex needs. For example, these include follow on single day or in-depth residential courses such as the Approach and Retreats based at our National Centre.

Penny Brohn Cancer Care Staff

PBCC recognises that in order to provide high quality authentic whole person care, staff need to be committed and supported to maintain their own physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.

Specific steps that the organisation takes to support this are:

  • Penny Brohn Cancer Care’s Community Choir has been running since January 2014. There are over 60 members who sing weekly at our Centre in Pill. The choir is open to everybody with a cancer diagnosis, their loved ones and anyone connected to the charity. staff , clients and anyone associated with the centre. are weekly facilitated staff relaxation sessions for all PBCC staff and the organisation support staff to attend these sessions in paid PBCC time.
  • The Centre’s Sanctuary is open to staff members throughout the day and staff are encouraged to join in regular open meditation sessions that are held each day.
  • Nutrition has always been an important aspect of the work at PBCC and all staff members are entitled to subsidised lunches which are delicious, freshly prepared and all meet our Healthy Eating Guidelines. Staff are also entitled to a staff discount in the PBCC shop where many health foods, books and resources which support Self-Care are sold
  • Once a month core therapy staff have a supervision/peer support session led by one of the Lead Therapy team. This is not a business or clinically directed session, but a space where staff can explore their own health balance in relation to their work at PBCC.
  • Once a year, the Centre is closed to clients for a week and a series of staff-directed sessions are organised to support and develop the staff team and to encourage time for reflection and self-care.

Specific ways in which the organisation encourages staff to self-care and to attend to social, environmental and democratic responsibilities are:

  • In each job description there is an explicit requirement that each staff member be committed to their own personal health maintenance. This area is often explored further at job interviews and in annual appraisals with line managers
  • PBCC has a Diversity and Inclusion group which is actively researching and developing ways in which our service can be more accessible to hard-to-reach and under-resourced groups
  • PBCC has an environmental policy which covers areas as broad as transport to work, food sourcing (local and organic wherever possible), environmental impact of any chemicals used in the centre, resource use (lighting, heating, disposables etc). A working group drawn from all sections of the organisation is involved in reviewing this policy and disseminating to their departments.
  • Staff regularly take part, in their own time, in fund-raising activities for PBCC, many travelling overseas or undertaking ambitious sporting or social activities. They also regularly support other charities, such as Walk the Walk, who fund a range of diverse cancer support services

Treatment Support Clinic

Designed, established by a steering group which includes

  • Senior Oncologist
  • Chemotherapy Sister from the Oncology Unit
  • Integrative doctor who also works as NHS GP
  • Client Support Co-ordinator with a nursing background

Flyer for the clinic endorsed with the following quotation by Senior Oncologist and inserted into the “New Patient Pack” of every new patient attending main local oncology centre for outpatient chemotherapy:

“Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre staff welcome the new Penny Brohn Cancer Care Support Clinic. We encourage anyone who wants to learn more about how they can make themselves well through cancer treatment to go along and find out more.”

Dr JB, Consultant Oncologist and Chair of the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre Chemotherapy Working Group

Delivered by a team which includes the above, plus

  • Nutritional therapist with many years of experience in supportive cancer care
  • Acupuncturists from a local community interest company (CIC) providing complementary therapies
  • Local physical activity facilitators with qualifications and/or experience in working with cancer
  • Other staff from local NHS oncology centres (psychologist, information officer, oncology trainees etc)
  • Kitchen staff trained to prepare snacks and meals according to Healthy Eating Guidelines

Evaluated by a dedicated research team, not involved with service delivery using

  • client satisfaction and feedback forms
  • established patient related outcome measures (MYCaW, Distress Thermometer)

User feedback leads to service modification and development.

All Treatment Support Clinic users are asked to give permission for their medical notes to be released to the Integrative Doctors at Penny Brohn Cancer Care so that supportive care can be tailored to the specific needs of the user depending on diagnosis, current treatments and further management plans. This is an innovation for Penny Brohn Cancer Care and allows much closer working between the voluntary and statutory organisations than is usually possible.

Through their attendance at the Treatment Support Clinic, NHS oncology staff learn more about self-care practices and Whole Person Approaches and Penny Brohn Cancer Care staff learn more about the medical aspects of care. Users learn about both!

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