Supporting people affected by cancer in their community

In 2015, the Bromley by Bow Centre partnered with Macmillan Cancer Support to pilot the delivery of community based holistic cancer support. Together they launched and delivered the Macmillan Social Prescribing (MSP) Service to test this new model of delivery. Between 2015 and 2019 MSP service was funded by Macmillan Cancer Support to provide one-to-one support to over 2,000 people living with and beyond cancer in Tower Hamlets, City & Hackney, Newham and Waltham Forest. In depth support was provided via the phone and from community locations in East London. The team have connected clients to more than 400 different services and activities.

The success of the service was, in part due to our integrated work with primary care, secondary care and voluntary sector partners. More than 280 professionals from across these sectors referred people living with and beyond cancer for support. The following is an attempt to share the learning and insights from this pilot.

Describing the service

To promote the MSP service to people affected by cancer and the professionals supporting them, the team created a number of marketing resources.

MSP patient leaflet

Developing an understanding of the experience

During the four year pilot the team developed a number of dynamic collaborations. These enabled a number of programmes that helped people living with and beyond cancer explore their experience and connect with others. The service delivered a three month filmmaking course as a tool to empower and support eleven people living with and beyond cancer. The group made a 30 minute film ‘Mind the Dash – living with and beyond cancer’ that gives an honest and inspiring account of their experiences of diagnosis, treatment and recovery. The film is being used at training events for health and care professionals to improve their understanding of the impact of cancer.

During the course of the service a number of clients generously shared their stories.

Mapping support available

Through helping clients explore their needs and connect with support, the team developed a rich understanding of the services and support available in East London. We created a number of service directories that could be shared with those effected by cancer and professionals supporting them. The team learnt that the sheer amount of information out there can be overwhelming for people. Particularly when they are navigating the shock of diagnosis and practicalities of treatment. The directories are a helpful overview of the key support available.

Macmillan Cancer Support have a dedicated Online Community for people affected by cancer. Support is available 24 hours a day, in a safe environment to ask questions, share experiences and emotions.

Evaluating our impact

There have been two MSP evaluation reports. The first focussed on delivery from 2015-2017 and developed a Theory of Change. The second focussed on the final two years of the service, 2017-2019. This evaluation considered the outcomes and impact of the service for clients and an economic assessment of the service through a Social Return on Investment (SROI).

Macmillan Social Prescribing Service – Evaluation Report 2015-17

Macmillan Social Prescribing Service Evaluation Infographic 2015-17

Macmillan Social Prescribing Service – Summary Evaluation Report 2019


Appendix 4 – SROI report

SROI working

References and Appendices

Closing the service

Macmillan Cancer Support funded the Bromley by Bow Centre to test and develop this model of delivery with the objective of securing longer term funding from other sources e.g. CCGs or Local Authorities. Despite our best efforts and with the involvement of a range of stakeholders, the Bromley by Bow Centre, supported by Macmillan, was unable to secure continuation funding from statutory sources. We do however hope our resources and our broader learning will enable other services both at the Centre and within the NHS, to better understand and support people affected by cancer.

Read the Service closure letter.


Ruth Roberts, Director of Communities, Health and Wellbeing, Bromley by Bow Centre –

Donal Gallagher, Partnership Manager, North East London, Macmillan –