So July 2014 marks the one year anniversary of something special. Sorry Prince George - we’ve got candles to blow out too. Since this time last year, with the help of funding from the Movember Foundation, we have been developing support services to reach men where they are - their local community.
We have always worked hard to address the issue of inconsistent care and services across the UK. But 18 months ago our regional presence was limited. Now we have seven hubs in Glasgow, Cardiff, Newcastle, Stockport, Birmingham, London, and most recently in Belfast. And we’ve spent the past year finding out what kind of support men need on their doorsteps and creating partnerships and programmes to meet those needs. By the end of March 2014 we had already allocated an amazing £465,000 to organisations throughout the UK to deliver 60 different services to people affected by prostate cancer or health professionals working with those affected by prostate cancer. These organisations include local and national charities and social enterprises. Some provide general health and wellbeing services, some provide specialist cancer services and we work with the NHS and Local Authorities. The programmes cover a huge range of activities from diet and nutrition to improving emotional and physical wellbeing; support groups and counselling to managing side effects; and conferences on living with prostate cancer to classes in comedy, cooking and gardening. It’s a real melting pot of innovative local services (and the full list can be found at prostatecanceruk.org/in-your-area)
The impact these services are having on men’s lives is unprecedented and the feedback has been brilliant. In previous blogs I’ve been able to share great stories from the Health with Hawthorn physical activity programme in Middlesbrough and the Metro Walnut support group in South London. And I’d like to use this blog to share another. We worked with Cheshire and Wirral Partnership’s Links Healthy Living Centre to promote their Pro-Active service which provides healthy eating advice, exercise and training programmes and relaxation sessions to men with prostate cancer. A man with metastatic prostate cancer took up the relaxation classes and massage because his diagnosis was causing him to worry about the future and affecting his mental wellbeing. Following the treatment, he said:
"During the massage I feel a level of calmness I thought I would never find again. The night following the massage I seem to have much less difficulty getting off to sleep’.
After a discussion with his consultant, he has now decided to take more of a holistic approach to managing his diagnosis, and has improved his diet and continued with relaxation and meditation techniques. He said, "From that small start of a relaxation class, I feel that I am now calmer, in control of my treatment and empowered to decide my future." Knowing the impact a service can have on just one man just wills me to do so much more. For many men prostate cancer can be an isolating experience. Many of the services we’ve established provide men the opportunity to meet others in similar situations locally. Recently I was at Age UK in Leeds meeting a group of men taking part in a physical activity programme. Hearing how much they looked forward to the sessions, the friends they’d made and the way it made them feel made me proud to be a part of Men United.
Although the past year has been incredibly impressive we’re by no means finished! By the end of March 2015, we’re aiming to deliver thousands more one to one and group support sessions, reaching over 4,500 people affected by prostate cancer. We are continuing to work with local authorities to create programmes in more areas, and we’re excited to see how many more men we can help across the UK. Sam Clements, our Community Nurse Specialist in Wales summed this up perfectly.
“Men will have more trust in us and come back to us as we develop more services. If we're able to go into the support groups and say 'we are here, we recognise that the services are limited, but we are able to help you with a commissioned service', it builds trust with those men and they do come back, give us a ring and use the service.”
To see what services are available in your local area, visit prostatecanceruk.org/in-your-area