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Macmillan and Marie Curie nurses

This page tells you about getting help at home when you have cancer. There is information about


Macmillan nurses

All Macmillan nurses are fully qualified nurses with at least 5 years nursing experience, including two or more years caring for people with cancer or other terminal illness. They are called Macmillan nurses because the Macmillan Cancer Support charity funds these posts within the NHS for the first 3 years after they are set up. After 3 years the NHS takes over the funding.

Many people think that Macmillan nurses give nursing or domestic care in the home, such as helping with bathing, cooking or shopping. Actually, this is not what they do at all. Their main role is in giving advice and support to people with cancer both in hospital and at home. They are specialists in controlling symptoms and can help at any stage of cancer. They often liaise between patients, relatives, GPs and the hospital to improve quality of life for the whole family during a stressful time. Some Macmillan nurses are qualified counsellors and can help to support close relatives and provide bereavement counselling.

You don't have to have advanced cancer to have a Macmillan nurse. They are able to give support and advice from the time of diagnosis onwards. They have a lot of knowledge about controlling cancer symptoms, especially pain.

You can find information about Macmillan nurses on the Macmillan Cancer Support website. Or you could contact them on 0808 808 0000. You have to be referred to the Macmillan nurses by a doctor or nurse who knows you. Talk to your nurse, GP or hospital doctor if you would like to see a Macmillan nurse.


Nursing help

If you are looking for nursing help, there are two options. First, the regular district nursing service. Your GP, ward nurse or hospital doctor can refer you to the district nurses. These are experienced, qualified nurses who can help with any nursing procedure at home, such as dressings or helping with giving medicines. They can arrange for you to have help with basic nursing care, such as bathing. They can also refer you to a charity called Marie Curie Cancer Care who provide support and care for people who have cancer and other terminal illnesses.

Marie Curie nurses give hands on help at home for people in the end stages of life. They will stay overnight if needed to give relatives a break.

Some areas of the country limit the number of hours of help you can have from Marie Curie nurses. This is because the district nursing service has to pay part of the cost of their time. The service is free to you, but half the cost is paid by the Marie Curie charity and the other half is from the community nursing budget. So some health trusts limit access to it and you may be told you are entitled to a set number of shifts per week.


Domestic help

You can try getting a home help from social services if you need help with domestic tasks such as shopping, cooking or laundry. This is sometimes difficult to arrange in many parts of the country. But it's worth asking. You may not get as many hours help as you'd like, but you may get something. Talk to your social worker, district nurse or GP to arrange it.

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Updated: 14 March 2014