An innovative approach to supporting patients in Fife with incurable lung cancer is providing comprehensive and individualised care whilst allowing patients to spend significantly less time in hospital and more time at home.

The project, which was developed in partnership with NHS Fife, Fife Health and Social Care Partnership and Macmillan Cancer Support Scotland, has proved so successful that this new model of care for people with advanced lung cancer is now part of normal practice.

In Fife around 40% of patients diagnosed with lung cancer are unfit to receive anti-cancer treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, either because they are too unwell or treatment is no longer working and may reduce quality of life.

These patients receive what is known as Best Supportive Care – where the focus is on supporting patients and their families when anti-cancer treatment is not possible.

A reliable and consistent model of Best Supportive Care was developed, one which could be delivered to all patients who needed it.

As a result, patients with advanced lung cancer are identified at the earliest stage and referred for comprehensive assessment and personalised care planning.

Assessments are carried out promptly at home, in an outpatient clinic or within hospital, depending on patient need and preference, with families and carers given the opportunity to discuss the illness in more detail. Physical symptoms, emotional, spiritual and practical needs are assessed and plans are made to address anything of concern, from medication issues to issues around financial support.

Follow-up is based wherever the patient is, normally within their own home, and patients are able to access ongoing support and advice – giving them as much control and choice as possible.

The service has been positively received by patients and their families who have said that they feel well informed and actively involved in their care planning.

Dr Steinunn Boyce, Consultant in Palliative Care Medicine, said: “We set out to improve patient care and patient experience, not only for the patient but for their families and the important people around them who are also affected by the diagnosis.

“Being in hospital is sometimes unavoidable and it’s sometimes the right place to be, but through this project we have been able to reduce the length of time that people spend in hospital – making sure that we are addressing their needs and supporting them so that they can be at home.”