Patient Ann Gurd with F11 Haematology Team
Haematology Unit at The Royal Oldham pioneers initiative that trains patients to administer their own chemotherapy treatment at home
19 June 2020

The Ward F11 Haematology team at The Royal Oldham Hospital are leading the way with a pioneering self-injection velcade treatment programme designed to help train cancer patients to administer their own chemotherapy from the comfort of their own home.

The Royal Oldham Hospital is one of a handful of hospitals throughout the UK to introduce this exciting initiative for cancer patients and initial findings suggest that there are a number of benefits for both patients and NHS teams.

Dr Satarupa Choudhuri, Cancer Lead for Haematology at The Royal Oldham, explains: “Self-injection velcade is an exciting programme for us. We’re lucky to have the support of the National Cancer Vanguard and Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group, who are both keen to support initiatives that help provide treatment closer to patients’ own homes.

“This particular treatment is aimed at patients with myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer. Bone marrow cancer is the spongy tissue at the centre of some bones that produces the body’s blood cells. The cancer often affects several areas of the body such as the spine, skull, pelvis and ribs, which can make coming to hospital for regular appointments a challenge.

“Our patients are fully supported to be able to self-administer the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib (velcade) at home through subcutaneous injections into their stomach. The feedback that we’ve had from patients is that they’re finding the experience a simple process that not only improves their quality of life - it saves them a trip to hospital, time and money spent parking and hours waiting for their treatment.”

The treatment is also proving to have a number of benefits for the Haematology team as well. Less demand for appointments from myeloma patients is freeing up waiting times and appointment slots for other patients to the unit. It’s proving to be a win-win situation for everyone.

Dr Choudhuri devised the plan for the self-velcade injection initiative after seeing how much time patients spent waiting at their clinic for a simple injection. She worked closely with the pharmacy department and other physicians at the hospital to establish the safety of the drug for self-administration at home.

Dr Choudhuri has also worked closely with F11 Lead Nurse, Maria Fernandez, Ward Manager, Claire Brummell and Haematology Macmillan Nurse, Sadia Akhtar to develop a bespoke training programme that teaches patients how to administer their own self-velcade injections. The team have also developed an instruction booklet for patients to take home, which tells them how to self-inject and safely deal with the equipment supplied.

One of the first patients to trial the new self-injection velcade treatment is Ann Gurd from Royton, who started her first course of treatment on 14th April 2020 and she has been followed by another 5 patients who are now self-administering their treatment at home.

Commenting on her experience of the initiative, Ann said: “When I was offered the chance to get involved and learn how to self-administer my treatment at home, I jumped at the chance. My treatment will involve 8 cycles of treatment over 8 months – a total of 24 appointments. Being able to administer the treatment at home instead of having to come to hospital for an appointment is a no-brainer and so much better.

“I was trained how to do the injections and the nurses monitored me for the first few times I did it. I’ve found the whole experience to be brilliant. It’s easy to do, you’re supported by the team here and if you have any questions, the chemotherapy nurses are available 24/7 to help you. I’d definitely recommend it to other patients.”

Anthony Hoy, Directorate Manager, Haematology, said: “We’ve been working hard to implement this service for some time. However, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we needed to accelerate the work to ensure that our patients continued to receive the treatment they need.

“The team have done an amazing job in a relatively short period of time to ensure that everything is in place for patients, especially since this is such a challenging time for the NHS. To the best of our knowledge, we are one of the first NHS trusts in the North West to offer this treatment, which given current circumstances with COVID-19 is an achievement we’re really proud of as a team.

“We’d like to think that we’re improving the quality of experience for our patients by reducing the burden of journeys to hospital, time spent parking and waiting times for treatment in our clinics. This treatment allows patients to continue with their daily lives with minimal disruption to their routine and the need to attend the hospital on a daily basis. Self-injection reduces the number of visits by an average of 3 attendances per cycle of treatment and most patients require 6-8 cycles of treatment. We’re cautiously optimistic about the positive outcomes we expect for our patients from being involved with this programme and we hope to develop and extend it to more patients in the future.”

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