How Maggie's and the NHS work hand in hand

Wednesday 04 August 2021

Before I met Maggie I had been working for six years in the NHS. When she was diagnosed with cancer, I was her oncology nurse.

I am so proud that so many of the staff in our centres also worked within the NHS which means we all appreciate the incredible care the Health Service offers to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer.

How we work together

Our priority is to work hand in hand with our colleagues in the NHS - not to replace them, but to help ease the pressure on their time and resources. And that’s been especially needed during the pandemic.

Our centres are built in the grounds of NHS cancer hospitals. We are there to provide the kind of unique practical, psychological, and emotional support which doctors do not have the capacity to offer, but which we know everyone with cancer will need from the moment they are diagnosed, through treatment and beyond.

At Maggie’s, we know how important it is for anyone with cancer to regain control at a time when they feel they have lost it and may be experiencing confusion, distress and a sense of powerlessness.

There is such a determined move towards personalised healthcare for the individual, recognised by the Government, and that is at the heart of everything we do at Maggie’s.

What we do at Maggie's

The help we offer in our centres – through one-to-one care tailored to the individual, peer support, information, and lifestyle and nutritional advice saves the NHS valuable time and money. In the years to come as the effects of the pandemic are fully realised, this support will be crucial.

Every day in our centres we help people to understand what their diagnosis means.

Medical terminology can be baffling and frightening, and doctors do not always have the time to help their patients decipher a diagnosis. That’s where Maggie’s comes in. We provide the information and support to ensure everyone we meet has a better understanding of what is happening to them so that they can take back control; know what questions to ask; get more out of meetings with their doctors; know how to navigate their treatment; and feel empowered to make decisions when they are faced with choices that could otherwise feel overwhelming.

This can be life-changing. It means that someone feels supported and empowered as an individual and not just another statistic. Why does this matter? Because we know that if someone is helped to live well with cancer, their physical recovery will be quicker and better, and looking ahead they will prosper.

How we help

Katherine visited our Edinburgh centre for cancer support:

"Because of the pandemic, I’ve not been able to have anybody come into the appointments with me. So if I’ve had a big meeting, like where I spoke to my surgeon about the surgery I needed, I used Andy at Maggie's as a go-between.

"I went straight from meeting my surgeon to talking to Andy, and I used him to debrief what I thought I’d heard in the meeting, and clear up any gaps. And as I’m telling him, I’m figuring out how I feel about it.

"We’ll have that discussion, and I’ll get myself into a good place. And then I’ll be okay to go back and tell my friends and family exactly what was happening."

I recently read this insightful article in the BMJ. The writer, whose husband was diagnosed with cancer, talks about the benefit of ‘gentle listening’ which chimes with our own approach at Maggie’s.

Having as much information as possible is key for someone who has been diagnosed. We launched a Getting Started programme of workshops that help people prepare for chemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunotherapy.

The Lead Nurse at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh referred patients to the programme. The outcomes were enlightening. She found that:

  • Patients felt less anxious
  • Patients felt better informed and prepared for chemotherapy
  • Less time was spent discussing basic risk factors so more time could be spent on the personalised nature of the treatment
  • Less time was spent on general information conversations

As a result, the NHS now recommends that all new cancer chemotherapy patients at the Western General Hospital should be referred to Maggie’s Getting Started programme as a formal part of their treatment.

This is just one example of how our working alongside the NHS can greatly improve someone’s experience of cancer.

Together we will continue this strong partnership by offering our unique blend of practical, psychological and emotional support.

Here with you

There are lots of ways we can support you, wherever you are.

Visit our website to find a centre, call us on 0300 123 1801 or email us at

Get cancer support near you

To find your nearest Maggie's centre, enter your postcode or town below.

Sign up for our newsletter

Stay up to date with our news and fundraising by signing up for our newsletter.

Sign up