Support service for East Londoners affected by cancer improves wellbeing and understanding of where to go for support

Published: 23 Feb 2018


Two million people are living with or beyond cancer in the UK, a figure that will rise to four million by 2030. The Bromley by Bow Centre and Macmillan Cancer Support partnered to pilot an innovative response to this challenge. This month, they published the findings of their recent evaluation which looks to understand the impact the service had on those living with and beyond cancer. The key finding from the evaluation was that the Macmillan Social Prescribing Service improved clients’ knowledge of where to go for non-medical support and their wellbeing.


As many of us know all too well, cancer creates considerable long term practical, social and emotional issues for those affected. For many, cancer has moved from a ‘terminal disease’ to an illness that needs to be managed as a long-term condition. Providing the care and support that people need requires new ways of working and new models of care.

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The Macmillan Social Prescribing Service is made up of a team of community based, cancer specialist social prescribers employed by the Bromley by Bow Centre and operating across East London. In the first two years of the service the team received referrals from 108 local health care professionals (within hospitals and GP practices) and conducted 70 outreach sessions where they met people affected by cancer first hand at hospital clinics.

During this period the service supported 630 clients via phone support and face-to-face support sessions at community locations (libraries and community centres). These clients were referred into 440 different services and activities including welfare advice, yoga sessions and cancer support groups. More than 70% of clients said they wouldn’t have accessed these services without support from the service.

The research findings show that 88% of clients increased their understanding of where to go for support with non-medical issues and they reported an improvement in their wellbeing and concerns scores (using a patient reported outcome measure).

The service has been found to be particularly effective in addressing concerns related to emotional wellbeing, socialising, physical activity, return to work and financial issues. Clients are supported to access services they may not know about or have had the confidence to access alone. Examples of services which are ‘prescribed’ include support groups, welfare advice, psychology workshops and yoga.

The service is tailored around the person – whatever I wanted to talk about was fine, my needs led the conversation. 

The research also found that 88% of Health Care Professionals who used the service found it useful:

The service saves me time and gives patients other options so that I can focus on clinical side.

Ed Tallis, Macmillan Head of Development for London says:

Every day, over 90 people in London hear the devastating news that they have cancer. This number is set to nearly double by 2030, which will result in thousands more people in the area needing medical, practical and emotional support.  

For this reason, we are proud to be partnered with Bromley by Bow Health Centre to provide this innovative service which will help people affected by cancer in the area – during and after treatment. Life with cancer is still life and the Macmillan Social Prescribing Service will help people live it.

Learning from this research is being incorporated by the Macmillan Social Prescribing service to develop their vital support in the second phase of the project.

If you or someone you know would benefit from support to get back on track after a cancer diagnosis the service can be contacted on 0208 709 9736 or (please note the service is available to those that have had a cancer diagnosis over the age of 18 who are residents of Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Newham and Waltham Forest).

For more information

View our reports page here and the service page here.