Chai Cancer Care is expanding its services with a pioneering rehabilitation and palliative outpatients clinic at its Hendon premises.
In a collaboration with the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust and the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead, Chai is offering clients an initial one-hour appointment with a consultant to discuss matters including pain management, treatment options, rehabilitation needs or psychological or sexual issues.
The clinic has been been quietly trialled since October and is currently dealing with up to seven patients at the weekly sessions.
But numbers are expected to increase dramatically as Chai begins to publicise the service in advance of the September opening of a refurbished building on its site, incorporating consulting and treatment rooms.
The "survivorship" venture stems from discussions initiated in 2010 by Chai chief executive Elaine Kerr and Dr Adrian Tookman, medical director of the Royal Free trust, clinical director of the Hampstead Marie Curie and a long-time Chai medical patron.
Dr Tookman explained that "the whole trajectory of cancer has changed over the last 15-to-20 years. Treatments and survival rates have improved. Many patients survive longer than those with other chronic conditions. They need physical and emotional support services which are not well catered for in either the NHS or the private sector."
People often had to deal with "a burden of uncertainty", wondering if the cancer would return, what treatments they would require, or associated issues such as resulting unemployment or sexual dysfunction. It was very easy to feel isolated.
"All patients need to be referred to the clinic," he explained. "It's free, and every case is discussed in multi-disciplinary meetings to make sure no stone is left unturned. I am amazed at how successful it has been so far."
Ms Kerr added that clients felt able to raise matters they might not feel comfortable asking elsewhere "because it is not a medical setting and there is a calming atmosphere. With palliative care, the quicker you see a consultant, the better your quality of life." The clinic was "joining up the dots" in the care process. "People in the medical profession are blown away by this.
"It is our most exciting development. Not only is it ground-breaking. It's going to make an enormous difference to people's lives."
The new service is further evidence of the continuing expansion of Chai, which supports 1,500 people at any one time and has dealt with 800 new clients over the past year. The vast majority are seen at the Hendon premises, where the charity offers counselling, physio, complementary therapies and group activities. "We provide 17,000 therapy or counselling sessions a year," Ms Kerr reported.
Chai operates satellite services in other major centres of Jewish population and telephone assistance to clients elsewhere. "Our challenge is keeping pace with the growing demand and attracting the funding to allow us to do so." Just over half the money has been raised for the £1 million refurbishment programme.
In common with other charities, Chai has a experienced a dip, albeit slight, in donations. At a time of swingeing government cuts, "the silver lining is that because we receive no statutory funding, there is nothing to cut", Ms Kerr noted.