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CUH Macmillan service gains ‘Beacon Centre’ status

06 July 2017
Two women who are responsible for a team of Macmillan Cancer Support volunteers at Cambridge University Hospitals to support patients and families affected by cancer have reached a new standard in excellence.

Louisa Bird and Leah Melabianaki of the Macmillan Cancer Information & Support Service (MCISS) at Cambridge University Hospitals, have met the Macmillan Volunteering Quality Standards (MVQS), one of only two centres to gain this ‘Beacon’ level in the country.

The award is for any Macmillan staff member or lead volunteer responsible for managing volunteers and is aimed at ensuring those volunteers have the skills and capabilities to be happy and effective.

Craig Weeks, Macmillan Volunteering Adviser for South and East England, supported the pair through the nine months’ evaluation process required for the award.

He said: “Like all Macmillan volunteers, our CUH team does an incredible job supporting patients, families and carers from the very first visit throughout their journey. 

“To achieve this milestone Louisa and Leah had to meet nine stringent quality areas designed to help them recruit volunteers and equip them with the skills to carry out that vital work.”

MCISS manager Louisa Bird said: “A considerable amount of investment goes into managing, developing and supporting our volunteers, without whom the service couldn’t run.

“I would like to recognise Leah Melabianaki for leading the service through the MVQS process, but also to mention Linda Hering [Employee Development Manager] and Maggie Brown [Voluntary Services Manager] in this achievement. 

For three years the MCISS has worked with CUH Volunteer Services to achieve a high calibre of volunteer and currently boasts 22 fully trained and passionate volunteers.

Beacons of support - Louisa Bird and Leah Melabianaki stand proudly with the Beacon award in front of Macmillan volunteersThrough partnership working the MCISS and CUH Volunteer Services have been able to create and establish the first volunteer team of its kind in the Cancer Division, a team who are passionate about making a difference to people affected by cancer. MCISS information specialist Leah is working with volunteers for the first time in her role.

She said: “It is a new way of working and I feel inspired by all the volunteers giving up their time and our service couldn’t run without them. 

“Our volunteers really do help to improve the experience of our cancer patients.” 

Working out of the MCISS Pod, open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, they offer support, information, assessment and signposting to all people affected by cancer.

Guides and Information Service volunteers provide a listening ear, support and signposting to supportive services.

The Pod also stocks literature on cancer and support, including specific tumour sites, side-effects, work, help for carers and the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis.

Meanwhile, there are other volunteers other departments within the Cancer Division, such as the Breast Unit, enabling more people who are touched by cancer to benefit from Macmillan services. 

Volunteer Maroussia Bermann, previously fundraised for Macmillan but wanted a role which was more patient-focused and has volunteered at the Pod for more than two years.

She said: “My role helps people practically and emotionally.  Everything around cancer can be frightening so it is good to be able to make the journey a little less daunting.

“I enjoy being able to make people feel a bit better, whether with just a friendly smile, a tip, or simply being someone to talk to other than a doctor.”

Volunteer Maureen Lemmon is in her first volunteering role but having always worked in hospitals and medical schools, it was a natural transition.  

She was inspired to make the move after supported a friend and neighbour through chemotherapy at Addenbrooke’s and, after seeing the service first-hand, wanted to do her bit.

Craig Weeks added: “Congratulations Louisa and Leah on this fantastic achievement and a huge thank you to all the volunteers in the MCISS.”