The online 'one-stop shop' to support North East cancer patients and families

Woman arranging flowers
Cancer patient Bethan Cawley says she values trustworthy information about her condition and treatment. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

It is more than eight years since Bethan Cawley received the news that she had a form of blood cancer.

Looking back at that period in her life, the teacher from Sunderland told me it was a challenging time.

She explained: "The whole process of being referred from the GP to the hospital, to tests, to actual diagnosis is just a roller coaster of a journey where you are dealing with your own emotions, your anxiety, your shock, your disbelief but you're also managing your family's responses as well."

Mrs Cawley is currently receiving a second round of treatment.

While she has learned a great deal about her condition in the years since her diagnosis, she said she still looks for trustworthy information and advice to guide her through.

"There is a wealth of information out there and some of it is healthy information and some of it is unhealthy information and so going to the right information is key."

The hub has been arranged in sections so people can access information in 'bite-sized' pieces. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The demand for clear and trustworthy information was recognised by NHS staff working with cancer patients across South Tyneside and Sunderland.

During the pandemic - at a time when people were unable to come together face-to-face - cancer nurse Kelly Craggs developed an online cancer information hub.

Those involved say it has become a valuable alternative to the many information leaflets that were once handed out to patients.

The aim of the hub is to guide people through their cancer journey, allowing them to take in the details - in bite sized chunks.

Ms Craggs said: "Patients often feel overwhelmed when they have a cancer diagnosis, they often need time to digest and then to take snips of information that they need, at a time that's right for them."

  • Video report by Helen Ford.

The hub includes information on:

  • Types of cancer

  • What to expect during treatment

  • Symptoms and side effects

  • Recovery

  • Managing mental health and fears around cancer

Alongside written information the hub includes videos filmed by trust staff, aimed at answering many of the key questions that cancer patients will have.

The hub was launched in November 2022.

Since then, staff say they've seen the benefits for patients.

Nurse Faye Marshall, who is responsible for patients with blood disorders, says she has seen how it helps people to fill gaps in their knowledge at a time that is right for them.

Mr Marsall explained: "Initially when people are given a diagnosis they just want to leave the department and they don't want to go through lots of different things with them but they might get home and speak to their friends and their family and they might start asking questions which then they think - I haven't asked that or I want to know more about that and they can access that straight away then."

While the hub was developed across South Tyneside and Sunderland, those behind it hope it will be useful for all cancer patients, their family and friends, wherever they live in the UK.

The hub can be accessed via the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust website.