We have over 7,000 members of staff at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust who all work as one team to deliver the best possible care for our patients within the Kent Oncology Centre. From consultants to porters, radiotherapists to secretaries, therapists, physios, our lab teams and beyond, every colleague at the Trust is here for you.
You can get to know just some of our team below who work across our sites at Maidstone Hospital, Tunbridge Wells Hospital and Canterbury.
Clinical Radiotherapy Specialist, Bronwyn Van Blerk
I am a Clinical Radiotherapy Specialist. I am a therapeutic radiographer that has moved into a floor manager role and I support the frontline treatment radiographers with problem-solving.
‘Once a radiotherapy referral is received from the consultant, together with my team, I have to ensure that all relevant information is available to sign off the referral as soon as possible for us to proceed with booking appointments. Working within the cancer services trust is a rewarding experience because we are making a difference in someone’s life. Although work relationships can be difficult at times, it becomes appreciative when you hear the words “thank for helping me through my cancer journey”.
‘Making a difference in the lives of staff and especially patients is the most gratifying part of my job. Within cancer services we embark on a journey with our patients, from the first time they are seen in the clinic to the last day of treatment when they are able to ring the bell to symbolize the end of the treatment pathway. This is the special part of my job!’
Paul Marshall, Radiotherapy Planning Radiographer
“I am a Radiotherapy Planning Radiographer at The Kent Oncology Centre, part of a team of radiographers and dosimetrists working at Maidstone and Canterbury.
“Each patient having radiotherapy has to have an individualised treatment plan and it is our job to prepare these, using a CT scanner specially adapted for radiotherapy, and computerised treatment planning systems. We begin by carrying out a CT scan with the patient lying in the treatment position; this is the first radiotherapy appointment for the patient and many of them are apprehensive so an important part of our job is to explain the procedure and to put them at ease.
“Once the scan is complete, the images are then transferred to a treatment planning computer system where we will mark any organs likely to be affected by the treatment and the oncologist or specialist radiographer will outline the area to be treated. A treatment plan can then be calculated, which ideally gives a high dose to the target area whilst avoiding other organs and structures as much as possible. If the target dose is too low, the treatment will not be effective; however if the target dose is high other organs need to be shielded adequately in order to reduce unwanted side effects.
“This is where teamwork plays an important part and we work closely with the Oncologists and Medical Physicists to get the best possible treatment plan working within strict clinical protocols. Every patient and every target volume is a different size and shape so no two cases are the same; the higher the dose the more complex the plan can be, some can take many hours of work over several days to complete.
“I think the part of my job I enjoy the most is the teamwork. Our role puts us in the centre of things, working with Treatment Radiographers, Physicists, Macmillan Staff, Schedulers, Nurses CNSs, Dieticians and Oncologists to ensure the patients get the best possible treatment.”
Helen Vaughan, Macmillan Speech and Language Therapist
“I’m a Macmillan Speech and Language Therapist and I work within Oncology and I’ve been in the role for about two and a half years – but I’ve been with the Trust for 29!
“I work mostly with head and neck cancer patients and I work across the pathway so I see them before they start treatment, at diagnosis, during treatment and then at follow up. I’m here to support them with being able to swallow and communicate effectively. We work as a team with patients to carry out preventative measures so that the muscles involved in speech and swallowing do not seize up and that swallowing is safe. We carry out assessments and then give advice and exercises for voice, jaw, tongue, lip and swallowing as needed. Many of the patients we work with have had surgeries including partial removal of the tongue, floor of the mouth or part of the jaw – so we provide a lot of support in helping them return to swallowing and talking.
In this role you get to meet so many different characters and many are quite anxious and worried when they first come in – but getting to support them week by week and hearing about their recovery is really special. We had a lady in last week who is already back doing her job and able to eat with her family thanks to the teams support, so it’s really heartwarming to be able to make that difference in people’s lives.”
General Porter, Jayne Ansell
“I’ve been a General Porter for about a year now and there’s a lot more to the role than people may think – we don’t just push, pull and smile! We have to collect blood gases, we have to know about units of blood and take them to the wards and we have to deliver samples and be there for any sort of emergency that happens at the hospital, so we are heavily involved with keeping the trust running and caring for patients.
“We work with many cancer patients in our day to day role and very often deliver units of blood or platelets to wards for them so they can be treated as quickly as possible. We are also responsible for taking them to scans such as CT’s and x-rays as well as taking them to oncology for chemotherapy treatment.
“I enjoy having that short relationship with patients and being a small part of their journey. We are joining them obviously at a very emotional and stressful time of their lives so sometimes it is nice to be able to chat with them and try to relax them – a laugh and a joke often goes a long way!
Soni Xavier, Prostate Pathway Specialist Nurse
“My prime duty is to work through the Cancer two week wait (C2WW) prostate pathway to ensure these patients are getting their investigations and procedures done as quickly as possible. The first and main part of the pathway is through me and my challenge is to prepare a safe and smooth way for these patients in the process of cancer diagnosis.
‘The word cancer is scary for many, as we all know most of the cancers are life threatening. But, in the modern era of the technology, new diagnostic and treatment methods, we can treat cancer and cure if we diagnose these in the early stage. Prostate cancer is one of them. This is where my role is more important, by guiding these patients to an early diagnosis will help us start the treatment as early as possible and will have better prognosis.
‘All the team members within the team, this includes the outpatient clinic nurses, doctors, consultants, diagnostic departments, laboratories, pharmacy departments, all these have been working hard and helping us with these patients in the pathway. Teamwork has an important role in the health sector and if you have a good team working with you, the performance standard will always be high. Good teamwork is the slogan behind our success.
When you have new challenges you will find new ways, you will look for new ideas to overcome that situation. To make impossible to possible is the challenge, and that is the daily challenge.”
Jo Priston, Medical Secretary
“I’m a medical secretary and I deal with all incoming new cancer patients and make appointments for those patients after diagnosis, which can include MRI and CT requests and much more. I talk directly to the patients after their diagnosis which can be very difficult as many can understandably be very emotional and anxious and just wanting to get their appointment booked in for as soon as possible.
“The role is extremely important as we are pretty much the first port of call for the patient and a key part of my job is reassuring them that all is in hand and their case is being dealt with. The point in which the patient comes to me is such a critical stage – many of these patients have just been told they have cancer. It can be an incredibly daunting role but it is also so rewarding, as we play a huge role in sending that patient on the correct pathway for treatment.
“When speaking with patients, I often put myself in their shoes and ask ‘how would I be in this position?’ and treat them as I would if it was my own family looking for help with respect, understanding and empathy. I feel like we do make a difference and that people can get off the phone and feel reassured that they are in the right hands. Teamwork plays a massive part of our success – we simply would not function if everyone wasn’t doing their part.”
Hide Yamamoto, Consultant Urologist
“As a consultant urologist my role is to diagnose and treat people who have surgical problems with the urinary tract. I am currently involved in the day-to-day running of the prostate cancer pathway. As one of the highest patient-volume pathways it requires me to work closely with co-ordinators, nurse specialists and our Multidisciplinary Team to ensure that patients are managed correctly and promptly.
“We should be proud that we have set up a high standard diagnostic service for prostate cancer with good clinical outcomes and patient experience.
“Unfortunately it is getting rarer for me to be gifted with the time to tell patients that they have no cancer – a task now granted to my junior colleagues! But it is always rewarding to see patients avoid complications of investigations and treatment as they may have done previously, an indication that we are making progress as a specialty. It is absolutely impossible for the pathway to function and to achieve targets without all members knowing and performing their roles. We communicate well together as team and this in turn, I feel helps simplify the complexities of the pathway for all.”
Consultant Histopathologist, Dominic Chambers
“I spend most of my time looking down a microscope at slides of biopsies and resections which are heavily involved in the diagnosis of cancer. Within the team, we do a large amount of work assessing growth specimens to measure the grade and stage of the tumour to determine if the surgery was successful and then deciding to carry out further molecular tests if necessary.
“Without the cellular pathologists, there is essentially no tissue diagnosis so pathology is pivotal in cancer diagnostic work. We work extremely close with other clinical teams and are very synergistic with radiology who we work with as the diagnostic machine behind cancer services. Radiologists can diagnose things on imaging and that enables them to target which parts to sample for cellular pathology – so radiology are very important to us, as without them, we wouldn’t get a biopsy.
“I feel like recently we have made a huge difference in Cellular Pathology to streamline the service and work better alongside other teams in the process. We have made moves to increase efficiency such as growing our number of specialist biomedical scientists to do the cut up of the specimens and by doing that we are reducing the amount of time consultants spend cutting up specimens, allowing consultants to focus on other areas.
“I enjoy the challenge of making the diagnosis, it’s inquisitive and like solving lots and lots of puzzles every day. I get a huge amount of satisfaction when making a diagnosis and being able to say ‘I know exactly what that is, the patient can now go and get the correct treatment’, which can sometimes be critical for their survival.”
Kannon Nathan, Consultant Clinical Oncologist
“I am a consultant clinical oncologist who mainly deals with head and neck cancer, gynae-oncology and skin cancers and I am based at the Trust’s Canterbury site which covers the East Kent catchment of patients. I work within a well versed team, at all levels, from administrative staff to surgical clinical colleagues. The key element is communication and we ensure we are on a daily basis with each member of the team respecting everyone and their views and opinions.
“A vital aspect of our job is to ensure the patient is engaged and to manage timely treatment to ease anxiety when they are at their most vulnerable being diagnosed with cancer. As they are on this pathway, their treatment may not be clearly defined until you have all their information which is a concerning time for patients, so it is important at all times to involve them in this, as with their help we can achieve the same purpose. We keep things simple and have named keyworkers and they can put faces to names and we’ve had some great feedback from patients, with them commenting on seeing ‘the team in action and acting as a team’.
“It is great to have an excellent team at Canterbury who help with this tight complex pathway, and all staff in radiotherapy, from reception to planning to treatment, serve their role with aplomb and I’m honoured to be part of that. In head and neck cancer, we really are part of the patient’s journey. I love working in this team, and to ensure the pathway works, is only because the team effort of all staff across the Trust, not one individual, and I love being a part of that.”
Chris Harker, Cancer Data Analyst
“I am based in the Trust’s Business Intelligence team in the role of Senior Information Analyst. My main responsibilities in relation to the cancer waiting times standards cover four areas.
“Firstly, to provide advice in relation to pathway queries to ensure there is a consistent approach across the trust to adhere to national and local guidance. I work with staff in all roles across the cancer services division as well as management and clinical staff from other divisions.
“Second is the validation of the data collected on the trust’s cancer database, Infoflex, which is also used by the four other trusts in the Kent & Medway cancer network. This involves liaising with the Multi Disciplinary teams to ensure that the data is validated. Third is the monthly upload and reporting of the trust’s cancer waiting times data, which has to be complete and accurate.
“The final area is the analysis of the performance and data, providing regular and ad hoc reports internally and externally.
“It is important that everyone involved in patients’ care work together and the provision of information to help to achieve the standards is pivotal to this. As such, I am able to use the knowledge and skills that I have developed over the 10 years that I have been involved with cancer waiting times to provide trusted support to staff at MTW and across the network.”
At MTW, we also have 70 cancer CNS’s providing outstanding care to some of our most in need patients every day and helping them and their families through their cancer journey, covering areas including haematology, palliative care, acute oncology, breast and urology.
Clinical nurse specialists use their expertise to assess, diagnosis and treat patients and their role often extends to other areas such as research.
They work within the tumour site multi-disciplinary team to ensure the patients’ journey has continuity, support and care. Responsibilities includes holistic support to the patients and the significant supporters, specialist advice to patients, families and clinician and helping to sign post to other services. They can follow patients for many years and are usually the first point of contact when a patient requires any support.
You can find out more about the role by reading below about the experiences of just three cancer CNS’s we have here at MTW.
Tell us about your career so far…
I started in the NHS in 2004 as a clinical support worker and was seconded to do my nurse training. I qualified in 2009 and have worked in both surgical posts and medical. I joined MTW in 2011, starting on Cornwallis Ward at Maidstone Hospital before moving to Pembury where I helped set up the Wells Suite when Tunbridge Wells Hospital opened. From these roles I’ve always had an interest in specialising as a cancer nurse, mainly for personal reasons as family members have had treatment for the disease. I saw my post advertised and applied and here I am 10 years later!
Why is the CNS role so important?
To me the CNS role is important because it provides and reinforces relevant information. We act as a liaison with other professionals and agencies, when necessary, to improve cancer care for patients. We do our best to improve quality and experience of care for patients, reinforcing patient safety and demonstrating leadership I understand that for some this role would be difficult but it can also be very rewarding, knowing that you are able to help and support patients at a very mentally and physically distressing time in their lives.
What is one of your favourite moments within the role?
When one of my patients came to visit and brought her baby with her that she thought she would never have.
What do you most enjoy about your role?
I love that I am able to help and support patients, helping to take the fear factor out of their diagnosis and treatment.
What do you love about working for MTW?
As a department the support from both my team and from my managers has been exceptional on both a personal and professional level and I cannot imagine working anywhere else in the near future.
Working as a Palliative Care CNS, Sanghajit’s NHS career spans 14 years. He’s still quite a new face at MTW after joining the team last year. Read on to find out more about Sanghajit’s role and experience…
Tell us about your career so far…
I trained as a nurse straight out of high school (in Australia where I am from). I worked in mental health initially then went into many, many different areas and worked in London for around 12 years. Eventually I settled into palliative care after becoming a ward manager in a specialist palliative care unit in Whipps Cross Hospital. From there, I became a Palliative CNS in Greenwich and joined MTW last year.
Why did you want to become a Palliative Care CNS?
The patient contact. I like to make a difference to individuals and make those personal connections with patients and their families.
What makes you passionate about your job?
It fits with some of my deepest values in life.
Why is the work of the Palliative CNS so important?
We take a very global view of the situation and draw out what is important to the patient and their family. We also tend to make people feel a lot better.
Why would you encourage others to become a Palliative CNS?
I encourage people to become Palliative Care CNS’s all the time, especially if I see them practicing with the right aptitude and interest in making care personalised. Each palliative care patient requires a new approach and individual plan and you need to be a nurse who is thinking about the bigger issues in a patient’s situation and journey.
What do you love about your role?
Having a role in every department of the hospital and working across such a broad array of teams. I also love it when I have time to give a patient a shave when their beard has grown too long!
The spotlight now shines on Rudo, who started her NHS journey with MTW seven years ago as a newly qualified nurse. Read on to find out more about Rudo’s role and experience…
Why is the work of the Cancer CNS so important?
When someone is diagnosed with cancer they need a professional to support and guide them and sometimes explain in simple terms so they can make informed decisions.
Tell us about a normal working day in your role?
Every day I am in clinic and helping patients whenever needed. Calling patients and giving advice over the phone. No 2 days are ever the same. It is a very busy but rewarding role and provides a great opportunity to work with very experienced members of staff such as surgeons and other CNS’s.
What has been the best moment of your career in this role so far?
When a patient came back to thank us after all their treatment is finished and they actually stated that they were so scared but because they knew if they needed support we would be there for them. The feedback we get is very heart-warming.
What do you love about working for MTW?
It is a multicultural environment. During this pandemic the Trust has been very supportive of its staff.
What makes you passionate about your job?
I am doing what I love to do and helping people who are going through cancer treatment. It is a fulfilling job knowing that I can offer some help and support during such a difficult time.