Psychological and social support for cancer patients
A significant proportion of cancer patients have moderate-to-high needs for help to cope with their illness and its treatment. Many also report that they didn’t have adequate information to help them make decisions.
Untreated psychological conditions can result in greater pain, poorer physical functioning, higher medical costs and longer hospital stays as well as impacting on the person’s ability to work. This also places an added burden on the health system. On the other hand appropriate levels of support is proven to be effective in reducing distress, decreasing anxiety and depression, increasing knowledge and improving the quality of life of cancer patients. In NSW it is clear that the level of unmet demand for support is large and likely to increase.
Psycho-oncology staff, in particular oncology social workers, have a critical role in providing support and helping cancer patients, and their families and carers, to navigate the health care system and manage the day-to-day challenges of living with the disease. Currently it is unclear exactly how many psycho-oncology staff are in the NSW public health system, but it is clear that there aren’t enough to provide the level of care needed.
Tell the NSW Minister for Health − Jillian Skinner − that:
- Psychosocial oncology positions that are currently vacant need to be filled immediately;
- Research is needed about the gaps in psychological and social support services and the impact on patients, their families and carers; and,
- A comprehensive workforce data must be collected and analysed to identify the number psychosocial staff required to meet the needs of cancer patients, and their families and carers, in NSW.
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