Freeman Hospital receives top award for incurable blood cancer care

Myeloma UK
The haematogoly team has been described as "extremely dedicated and innovative" by Myeloma UK. Credit: Myeloma UK

The Freeman Hospital has scooped a national award for its commitment to patients living with incurable blood cancer for the second time.

The hospital’s haematology team was presented with the Myeloma UK Clinical Service Excellence Programme (CSEP) Award in recognition of its outstanding care and dedication to patients with myeloma, an incurable blood cancer which claims the lives of 3,000 people in the UK each year.

This is the second time the Freeman has received the award, which is only handed to a select few hospitals every four years.

Staff were praised for their efforts to improve patients’ quality of life and eagerness to adapt and truly listen to their needs.

Dr Emily Watts, consultant haematologist at the Freeman, said: "We’re delighted and extremely proud to be reaccredited once again through the Myeloma UK CSEP programme.

"The whole team have worked incredibly hard over the past few years to not only keep the service going, but to continue to progress the service and think of ways to improve the experience for patients undergoing myeloma treatment despite the constraints and pressures of working throughout the pandemic."

Myeloma is especially hard to spot as its symptoms are often vague and dismissed as ageing or other minor conditions.

By the time many patients are diagnosed their cancer has often advanced and they require urgent treatment. This can significantly impact their chances of survival and quality of life. 

About 5,800 people are diagnosed with myeloma every year.

Myeloma predominantly affects people over 65 and only one in 10 patients diagnosed with the disease every year are under 55.

Carly was diagnosed when she was just 34. Credit: Myeloma UK

Carly James, from West Denton, was 34 when she was diagnosed with myeloma in 2018. Her sons Ben and Jack were aged just two and seven.

She credits the team at the Freeman for giving her hope, allowing her to get to grips with her diagnosis and supporting her through months of gruelling treatment.

"They’re an incredible team and, when I go in there, I feel heard and really involved in my care," Ms James, who had suffered from back-to-back chest and water infections and extreme fatigue for 10 months before her myeloma was finally caught.

"Your world changes when you get an incurable disease and have young children. When you hear the word ‘incurable’ that’s all you can think about. I was so hung up on that word.

"It caused my mental health to nosedive. But they’ve been there for me, the doctors, the nurse specialists, the chemo nurses... They genuinely care about people and they go above and beyond for you."

Carly started chemotherapy straightaway and had a stem cell transplant in 2019. While she is thankfully in remission, the intensity of her cancer treatment has taken its toll.

Jess Turner, clinical practice services programme manager at Myeloma UK, said: "Myeloma is a complex cancer which can be challenging to manage and we were really impressed by the team’s willingness and ability to prioritise patient preference across the service. 

"Not only does the hospital now run a full seven-day service for chemotherapy appointments but patients are also given the option to go home after a stem cell transplant, which can be a real comfort to them.

"Patients at the Freeman are cared for by an extremely dedicated and innovative team."