Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan has recruited its first transplant clinical psychologists in a ground-breaking move to better support transplant patients’ mental as well as physical health.
The three posts, a children’s transplant psychologist based in Greater Glasgow and Clyde hospital and two adult transplant psychologists based St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and Southampton General Hospital will allow transplant patients to access targeted psychological care raising the standard of post-transplant care around the country.
After undergoing a stem-cell transplant, focus has traditionally been on helping the patient to physically recover from what can be a gruelling ordeal. But patients also have unique emotional and psychological needs as revealed in research published by Anthony Nolan in 2017 which found that one in five transplant recipients are not offered any specialist NHS support during their long-term recovery, often leaving them feeling like they have “fallen off a cliff”.
Nearly half (47%) of patients asked said that they felt they needed emotional and psychological services such as counselling and group therapy, but of those who said they needed it, only half (54%) actually received it. In acknowledgment, Anthony Nolan laid groundwork for funding their first clinical psychologists.
As experienced mental health practitioners trained in post-transplant care, the Anthony Nolan clinical psychologists are in the ideal position to be able to provide comprehensive care. They address the unique needs of the patients they are supporting, championing their emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Dr Henrietta Saunders who takes up the post at St Bartholomew’s Hospital says she’s ‘excited’ to be part of developing a new specialist service for patients having a transplant.
She said: ‘The psychological impact of having a transplant is well recognised and can potentially last for years afterwards due to the late-effects of treatment. The clinical psychology role will be an integral part of the multi-disciplinary team helping to identify each patient’s needs and ensure they are offered appropriate emotional and psychological support.’
‘Ultimately, I hope it means that patients at St Bartholomew’s Hospital will feel well-supported in managing the understandable emotional impact of going through the transplant process and dealing with its effects on their life. Early on in my role, I want to consult with patients, family members and staff so that their views can help shape the design and development of the service.’
Dr Helen Broome who takes up the post at Greater Glasgow and Clyde, says she’s ‘excited’ to be part of the Stem Cell Transplant team: ‘this is a great opportunity to develop psychological support for patients having a transplant and their families, in addition to staff members.’
She said: ‘Children and young people, and their families, may experience a number of psychological challenges when trying to adjust and cope throughout their transplant journey. It is crucial they are given the opportunity to discuss their feelings early on and are given appropriate psychological support before, during and post-transplant when needed.’
‘I hope to support and improve the quality of life for young people and their families who are going through a stem cell transplant. I also hope to develop research ideas which will help shape the service and improve the patient's experience.’
Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, says: ‘Having a stem cell transplant is a lifechanging event. Patients have told us the shortcomings in post-transplant psychological care has left them ill-equipped for dealing with the emotional impact on everyday life. We must change this, and I’m delighted our Clinical Psychologists will be able to offer unique support to ensure patients are in the best position to recover physically and mentally.’
The Anthony Nolan clinical psychologists will work closely with their NHS trust to help them to continually evaluate and demonstrate how valuable the role is to the post-transplant service. Anthony Nolan is also working with the NCVO Clinical Evaluation Services to formally evaluate and evidence the impact of the roles. This data will endorse the case for improved support and will aid the hosting NHS hospital to maintain the funding on a permanent basis.