Oesophagoose project picks up Nursing Standard award

Two projects from The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust made it to the finals of this year’s national Nursing Standard’s Nurse Awards. And Claire Sedgwick – an Upper Gastro-Intestinal Cancer Nurse Specialist at Newcastle’s RVI – won in the ‘Innovations in your Specialty’award category.

Claire picked up the award for creating and developing the oesophageal and gastric cancer awareness campaign called ‘Oesophagoose’. This campaign involved developing a goose logo and mascot, and included an awareness-raising campaign using newspaper adverts, posters on local public transport, radio broadcasts and case histories on local TV to raise awareness of this dreadful disease.

Talking about her award win, Claire said: “To win this award was fantastic and one of the best moments of my professional career. It coincided with our awareness week, and the award-win is shared with members of the Northern Oesophago Gastric Cancer Unit who have played a massive part since the campaign began six years ago.

“Oesophageal cancer is growing faster in our society than any other form of the disease, and the North East of England has the highest incidence of the cancer in the world.

“As part of our campaign, we invented a goose mascot to help the public understand the word ‘oesophagus’. We’ve been really pleased with the success of the campaign, and we even designed a goose costume to get the message about oesophageal cancer across to the general public. This has had plenty of outings at public events, despite the high temperatures inside the costume!”

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Claire Sedgwick (centre) collecting her award.

Research in our region showed that the time between patients first developing upper digestive symptoms, and patients seeing their GP or nurse, was one of the crucial sources of delays in the diagnosis of both oesophageal and gastric cancer. Patients seemed to be unaware of the symptoms that these diseases caused, so the symptom awareness campaign was developed.

The key aims of the Oesophagoose campaign were to publicise the early symptoms of oesophageal and gastric cancer, and to reduce mortality from the diseases. It was hoped that by helping members of the public to recognise symptoms earlier, it might lead to earlier diagnosis and improved outcomes for patients.

Claire added: “Our unit in Newcastle has seen improved survival rates in recent years, which is undoubtedly down to a number of factors. But we have studied people’s knowledge of the disease before and after the campaigns, and we’ve seen a definite increase in awareness among members of the public.”

Alongside Claire, the Respiratory Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Team – led by Nurse Consultant Karen Heslop – came second for their project to tackle anxiety and depression, improve the quality of life, and improve survival rates in patients who have respiratory diseases.

The Nursing Standard’s annual awards recognise nurses who have made an outstanding contribution to patient care, or who have initiated projects which make a real difference to the lives of the people they care for.

As part of the award celebrations, and to mark National Nurses Day and Florence Nightingale’s birthday, winners and finalists visited the House of Commons. Both Karen and Claire met their local MPs and had personal tours around the Houses of Parliament. Claire also attended a dinner to speak with MPs and help raise the profile of oesophageal cancer.