Access to rehabilitation support through new joint venture for cancer patients

October 25, 2023

Two organisations are putting their skills together to provide rehabilitation health services to cancer patients and their whānau supporting them to live well, pre, post and during their cancer treatment.

In a first of its kind, the Cancer Society Canterbury West Coast Trust and St George's Cancer Care Centre will form a joint venture called Encompass Health. It will open in September and provide allied health and psychosocial cancer care services, ensuring patient’s needs are met.

Research published by the University of Otago found that many cancer survivors face a range of issues after treatment, but support for them is limited. The research investigated the provision of supportive care services and programmes for cancer survivors after their treatment.

The study found that despite advances in cancer care, there are still unmet patient needs after completing active treatment and very few services that specifically support people from a psycho-social and rehabilitation perspective.

Encompass Health will meet all of those needs. It is the brainchild of Cancer Society Chief Executive, Canterbury‑West Coast Division Nicola Coom, and St George's Cancer Care Centre General Manager Caroline Stark, who after meeting earlier in the year, realised that together, their organisations could increase the range of health and wellbeing support available to those living with cancer.

Nicola says it makes sense to work collaboratively to provide patients with as much support as possible. “St George’s Cancer Care has the skilled workforce to make this possible, and the Cancer Society has families telling us they need easy access to these professionals to help them through their cancer journey and to live well after their treatment,” Nicola says.

“The system we have now is fragmented. It’s very difficult for patients to find where all these services are – now they will be able to find what they require under one roof.”

Encompass Health will have services tailored specifically for cancer patients, including:

  • Psychosocial support including counselling and psychology
  • Physiotherapy
  • Exercise physiology
  • Lymphedema therapy
  • Group fitness and peer support

Caroline says that Encompass Health will focus on supporting patients to live well with cancer with personalised care specific to their needs.

“When you’ve gone through cancer treatment there can be limitations around what you can do. Our team will support patients to get back to the life they had before, as much as possible,” she says.

“If people want to work on their fitness, we can do that; if a patient or family member is in need of counselling, we can provide that as well.”

Encompass Health aims to deliver exceptional care to its clients on a fee-for-service basis, combining the expertise and resources of both organisations to provide a seamless and holistic experience.

Encompass Health Exercise Physiologist Jess Allan works with cancer patients to regain movement, which she says not only helps with their confidence, but is a positive step for their mental health.

“We need more services to support people through this challenging time, and I’ve worked with people who felt quite lost after treatment and didn’t know where to turn for further support,” Jess says.

“Having these services under one roof will allow us to support people and their families during recovery.

“My job is to help someone feel confident and empowered in their body again through movement, and the more services on offer to help, the better,” says Jess.

With the rate of cancer diagnoses predicted to rise over the next decade by 40%, Encompass Health will be at the forefront of providing much needed support.

“In the long term, we believe Encompass Health will help reduce the workload in the acute care area of hospitals, because once a patient is discharged, they will now have another place to go to access the services they need,” Nicola says.

“Our goal and hope is to see these services funded by Te Whatu Ora.”

Encompass Health will be located at the new Canterbury Cancer Centre in Papanui, chosen for its accessibility and convenient parking for clients. It will collaborate with healthcare professionals, community organisations and other stakeholders to ensure a cohesive and integrated approach to cancer care.

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