A PILOT scheme for a new out-of-hours helpline for outpatients receiving chemotherapy treatment at Bath’s Royal United Hospital (RUH) has been hailed a success.

The pilot has been funded by the Bath Cancer Unit Support Group (BCUSG) which needs to raise more money to continue providing this essential service.

The 24-hour oncology helpline has been launched to support the growing number of cancer outpatients being treated at the RUH. The Bath Cancer Unit treats patients from North and West Wiltshire.

The hospital has seen an 84% increase in cancer therapy workloads over the last five years as a result of new therapies, and patients being diagnosed earlier and living longer. A team of specially trained support staff now handle all out-of-hours calls and provide outpatients with round-the-clock advice on how to manage their symptoms.

Caroline Gilleece, Matron and Cancer Lead Nurse in the RUH oncology department, said: “In recent years the nursing team have managed the 24-hour telephone triage and advice service as well as caring for in-patients on the ward.

“Thanks to the new helpline service, all out of hours calls are now answered within 15 seconds. Where non-urgent advice is required, a registered nurse phones the patient back when available.

“This has further improved the service we can offer to patients on the ward and at home. It’s reassuring to know that the helpline is being manned and patients triaged promptly.”

The BCUSG is now looking to raise more money to continue running the helpline and fund other vital projects for cancer patients at the RUH.

It is aiming to raise £369,822 in total for three projects that include the out-of-hours helpline, equipment to target radiotherapy more accurately and funds to upgrade a solid-state gamma camera, which will provide better images for cancer diagnosis.

To make a donation to the Bath Cancer Unit Support Group appeal visit www.bcusg.org, email fundraising@bcusg.org or phone 07896 741233.