Milton Keynes Hospital nurse reflects on 'really difficult' year on cancer ward

This nurse in Milton Keynes has witnessed the challenges and strains the Covid pandemic has put on hospital's firsthand.

Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 4:46 pm

With the Coronavirus pandemic putting an unprecedented strain on NHS resources across the country, cancer treatment, or a lack thereof, has been spotlighted.

NHS figures show that 11,000 fewer imaging scans to diagnose or detect cancer were carried out at Milton Keynes Hospital between March last year through to this February. This was in comparison to, the 12 months prior, the year before the Coronavirus.

The number of cancer patients at the hospital hit record highs last year when 67 people with newly identified tumours were admitted to hospital between July and September.

Sam in action

Samantha Timmins, a Macmillan cancer nurse at Milton Keynes Hospital, opened up about what the past year has been like. Sam commented: “There have at times been many challenges – I was redeployed to another ward one day a week but had to keep up my own role as well, because people still needed treatment for cancer.

“Supporting my patients virtually or over the phone was sometimes really difficult because as nurses we pick up so much from our patients in person, especially non-verbal cues and emotions. It’s made me realise how much I really value and appreciate the face-to-face contact in supporting and maintaining good relationships with my patients and their loved ones.”

Sam was speaking ahead of International Nurses Day which is tomorrow (May 12) and European Cancer Nursing Day on May 18. She was able to identify some positives from her year working on the frontline adding: “The best thing about last year was settling into our lovely new Cancer Centre and feeling grateful for the additional space to ensure social distancing. Whilst it hasn't been the year we expected we have all pulled together as a team to support each other so we could still be there for people with cancer.

“I also think that continuing to work throughout the pandemic has been a great learning opportunity. Redeployment and changes in the way we work daily has shown how dynamic nurses are. And working through those challenges with our patients has been so rewarding.”

Samantha Timmins

The new centre which cost a hefty £15 million to build was launched last March, just before Covid dramatically altered work in health services.

A spokesperson for Macmillan described the role nurses play in caring for cancer patients, commenting: "As the patient’s key contact, they are in a unique position to offer clear information, vital emotional support and links to other sources of help."

Sam hopes with restrictions easing the still relatively new facilities can be used in ways that haven't been possible during lockdown. She said: “The wellbeing team and I have so much we are excited to reinstate, and we really want to develop new group support and sessions. Hopefully soon enough we can use the space and rooms we have in our Macmillan Wellbeing Lounge to offer a variety of support and activities for our patients.”

Macmillan partnership manager for Milton Keynes Pauline Craig said: “We are so grateful to Sam, her colleagues and all nurses working everywhere for the care, compassion and sheer professionalism they have shown in coping with the additional pressures brought about by the pandemic. At Macmillan we are doing whatever it takes to support our nurses as well as patients and the goodwill and support of the public will help us to achieve that goal.”

Sam, a cancer nurse at Milton Keynes Hospital