A GROUND-BREAKING new service to ensure cancer patients are offered emotional, practical and financial support as well as medical treatment has been launched in Scotland.
In what is being described as a UK first, the NHS in Glasgow is working with the city's social services to provide cancer patients with a wide range of different advice and information via one phone call.
Every newly diagnosed cancer patient in Glasgow will be sent a letter offering a visit from a dedicated worker as part of the new system.
The worker will then help the patient get a wide range of support, from benefits advice and emotional support to help at home or child care.
It is hoped the system will become a model for the rest of Scotland and other parts of the UK.
Those behind the new service, including Macmillan Cancer Support, Glasgow City Council and health board NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, say it is desperately needed.
The number of cancer patients in Glasgow is increasing every year and there is concern that many do not know where to go for help coping with the non-medical effects of the illness.
More than 18,000 people in Glasgow are currently living with a cancer diagnosis and this is expected to rise to 35,000 by 2030 as a result of more people surviving cancer and the ageing population.
Janet Colthart, a 72-year-old from Mount Vernon, said the service could have made a big difference to her family when her husband Alan was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
She said: "He was told it was serious, that it was a 'nine' (according to the score indicating how active the cancer is) but we didn't know what that meant.
"We went home and were in shock. It was a month until his next appointment and we had no-one to talk to or to get information from.
"I went online and found information but it wasn't a good feeling to be doing that alone.
"For over five years of Alan getting treatment, we just muddled along, trying to cope."
Later, by chance, Mrs Colthart said she met someone from Macmillan and the difference was "amazing". She said: "Macmillan helped us get benefits and claim expenses for the taxis we had to get to hospital. It was just amazing. I didn't need to do a thing.
"I just wish we'd known about the help available from the very beginning but we didn't know anything about cancer or who could help us."
The charity has invested £3 million in the new project.Councillor Paul Rooney, city treasurer at Glasgow City Council, said: "The impact of cancer on someone's health is understood; but it is too often overlooked that diagnosis can have far-reaching consequences in every part of a patient's life from their finances to their family relationships.
"In Glasgow, we have been building the partnerships and services to ensure that nobody faces those challenges alone.
"In doing so, we have put in place the most comprehensive package of support for patients available anywhere in the UK. This project is the next step in making sure every patient is able to access that support as early as possible."
The project, which launched today, will begin by focusing on those with prostate, lung, colorectal, sarcoma and gynaecological cancer, before being extended within three months to all cancer patients.
Elspeth Atkinson, Macmillan's director for Scotland, said: "Cancer has a huge impact on every aspect of people's lives and many patients tell us they don't know where to turn for help.
"This new service should make sure everyone in Glasgow with cancer has someone to call on for help, no matter what they need.
"We hope this service will transform cancer support in Glasgow."
Andrew Robertson, chairman of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: "We welcome this opportunity to work with our partners to provide a person-centred service for our patients."