Central North West London FT and University College London FT: The Oncology Symptom Control Unit

Symptoms such as pain, nausea and breathlessness are the presenting complaint behind 60 per cent of oncology admissions at UCLH. The symptom control unit – which has 11 beds – was set up to manage and review these patients, and ensure they were discharged appropriately with their symptoms controlled.

It involves timely review by a palliative care consultant with daily ward rounds, novel symptoms control methods to improve the quality of life for palliative cancer patients, and a focus on increasing staff skills and experience in managing this group of patients. Currently oncology patients with a solid tumour are seen but this could easily be extended to other patient groups. It is demonstrating reduced length of stay and symptoms and patient experience being improved. Staff feedback on teaching sessions has been outstanding and junior doctors are seeking to rotate onto the unit, citing the support they receive and the educational benefit.

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