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As part of World Cancer Day today (Sunday 4 February), NHS Western Isles is sharing information on the specialist service that the Macmillan Nursing Service provides on the Western Isles for cancer patients, from diagnosis and beyond.

The Macmillan Nursing Service provides a single point of contact for anyone with cancer from initial diagnosis and onwards throughout their journey. You can be referred to the Macmillan Team by any health professional, or you can self-refer to your local team based in either Uist and Barra or Lewis and Harris.

A seven-day service is provided by the Macmillan nurses, meaning that there will be a Macmillan Nurse available at weekends and on Public Holidays, who can provide advice to patients, families, carers, and other professionals across the Western Isles. The Macmillan Nurse on call may be on a different island to you depending on the rota but they will still be able to provide support.

The team also provides support to individuals who have been referred to hospital as an ‘Urgent Suspected Cancer’. Even if it turns out not to be cancer, the team understands the anxiety and worry that being referred to hospital both locally and to the mainland can cause and can provide emotional support throughout this process.

As well as meeting the needs of patients with cancer, the Macmillan Team will support people with any illness that requires palliative care. The nurses can help you with the following: 
  • Talking about your diagnosis with you and your family.
  • To understand the tests and treatment that you might have.
  • To manage your symptoms.
  • Coordination of your care, working alongside colleagues in mainland cancer centres.
  • Refer you to other support services e.g. physio, dietician, finances, Move More, WICCI (Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative).

Local resident, Nicola MacDonald shared her experience with her Macmillan nurse, “Having support from a Macmillan Nurse, from the very start of my cancer diagnosis and throughout my treatment was one of the strongest forms of support to me and my family.

“In what can only be described as a very dark and frightening time, the Macmillan Nurse stepped in and equipped me with the strength and tools to navigate my way through it all and helped me to break the journey down and not feel so overwhelmed by it all.

“The care, compassion, commitment, and overall support they provided me with was outstanding and left me with a better understanding of what I was going through. I will be forever grateful to the help I received from Macmillan Nurses and feel they are an absolute lifeline to anyone going through cancer.”

Another local resident has also praised the support given by the Macmillan Nurses, “I had a full Prostatectomy when I was 47 years old. In a nutshell my nurse was there for me every single step of the way, I had post op problems and I was seriously worried, my nurse calmed me down, made phone calls and sorted everything out in under 10 minutes! There are no words for just how incredible my nurse was, Macmillan is and always will be close to my heart.”

NHS Western Isles Macmillan Lead Nurse Cancer, Palliative Care and Neurology, Gail Allan, said, “The NHS Western Isles Macmillan Team has worked really hard over the last few years to develop the service to meet the needs of people with cancer and palliative care across the Western Isles and I was very proud when this was acknowledged at the Macmillan Professionals conference in November 2023, when the team won the 'Whatever it takes' award.

“The Macmillan Team is continuing to support the development of services and partnerships with island organisations such as Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative (WICCI), which provides an invaluable service for people with cancer. There is also an exciting new project, Macmillan Improving Cancer Journey, coming soon, which there will be more information in the coming months.”

You can contact your local Macmillan Team office seven days a week by phoning the following numbers – answering machines are available if there is no one to take your call:

Lewis & Harris 01851 704704 EXT 2401

Uist & Barra 01870 603010