Royal Cornwall Hospital are leading the way in prostate cancer treatment, after adopting a new project called True NTH.
The project gives patients the opportunity to take back control of the management of their follow up.
Funded by the Movember Foundation but managed through Postate Cancer UK, the True NTH project is a pilot scheme which has been adopted by five hospitals throughout the UK.
Implemented within the trust for almost a year, so far RCHT has 640 patients signed up.
It gives patients access to their blood results via a secure online website, rather than travelling into hospital for an appointment.
Within the system, they are able to contact a Prostate Cancer Support Worker, via secure email, if they have any concerns or problems.
Dr John McGrane, oncology consultant for Royal Cornwall Hospital, explained that even though the increase in the survival rate of prostate cancer is a fantastic story, the pressures to continue to monitor all these extra patients was taking its toll.
He said: “We see around 400 new patients a year at RCHT with prostate cancer, which has increased around 25 per cent in five years.
“Our clinics were becoming overwhelmed, with some patients having to travel great distances for follow up clinics that would at times only take about five minutes.
“The True NTH project has really helped to bridge that gap; it allows well patients to be managed at home, allowing them to have access to their own records and to follow their own progress.
"It also saves patients travelling here to find out results, which helps to free up spaces within our clinics for new patients or for patients who have encountered problems.
"I see self-supported management project like True NTH as the future of monitoring and surveying patients that have had treatment for prostate cancer.
“Whilst this is a pilot scheme at the moment, it’s certainly something I would see being standard of care over time.”
As part of the introduction to the True NTH programme, patients were invited to attend a one-off, four hour supported self-management workshop, where they can discuss issues such as side effects, symptom management, as well as where to get help, diet guidance and exercise tips.
Each patient on the system has set parameters that are monitored by the Specialist prostate Cancer Team, so if a patient's result goes out of that range or a patient reports an untoward symptom, they are contacted by the support team at RCHT and the issue is dealt with.
Debbie Victor, uro-oncology clinical nurse specialist, said: "Some patients were a bit wary of having to use the internet and accessing websites at first but it has been embraced by patients, making them feel they can take control back whilst still being safe in the knowledge that we are there in the background, keeping an eye on them.
“The programme has been in place for over a year now and we have already seen a reduction in the telephone and outpatient clinics, which in return has freed up the nurse specialist, meaning they are able to see patients with more complex needs.
“We are delighted that Royal Cornwall Hospital has been selected as one of only five sites across the UK to be involved with this project and even more thrilled that we have been the top recruiters out of all the sites.
"It’s great to see the people of Cornwall embracing a new way of working so well.”