How GPs can access advice and guidance on late effects of cancer

Macmillan's virtual multi-disciplinary team (vMDT) provides health professionals with access to expert advice to help support patients experiencing long-term consequences following cancer treatment. Dr Sinead Clarke explains how it works.

GPs can access advice from specialists on Macmillan's vMDT (Photo: iStock)
GPs can access advice from specialists on Macmillan's vMDT (Photo: iStock)

Many of our patients in surgery are affected by cancer at some point in their lives. Some may have had cancer in the past but still suffer from psychological or physical effects from the cancer or its treatment. Some will be going through treatment now, and some will be living with their cancer for a number of years, often in addition to other long-term conditions.

We know that many of these patients have one or more symptoms which can sometimes be difficult to manage in primary care. There are very few services around the country currently catering for late effects of cancer and its treatment, which has led Macmillan to set up a ‘virtual multi-disciplinary team’ (vMDT).

Macmillan vMDT

Do you have patients experiencing late effects of cancer treatment? Macmillan virtual multi-disciplinary team (vMDT) offers free advice from experts across the UK. 

This article is funded by Macmillan for GP Connect

What is the vMDT?

The vMDT is a secure online forum providing healthcare professionals quick and easy access to multi-specialist advice for their patients complex or severe chronic symptoms following cancer treatment. The aim is to improve the outcomes and quality of life for people experiencing these issues.

The vMDT is run from Christie hospital but takes referrals from anywhere in the UK. A large variety of late effects specialists have agreed to contribute their time to provide virtual advice on patients referred to the system.

There are a variety of potential late effects from cancer and its treatment, with many patients experiencing more than one. Examples of appropriate patients for the vMDT may include:

  • A patient that has been treated with radiotherapy to the pelvic area and is having diarrhoea which affects their daily life months or years after treatment has finished.
  • A patient with shortness of breath which could be due to chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment they had in the past.
  • Or a patient who had radiotherapy to the skull who now has multiple symptoms that could indicate an endocrine problem, secondary to pituitary damage from the radiotherapy.  

How to use the vMDT

If you wish to use the vMDT for your patients you need to register while on an N3 connection, which you can access by visiting macmillan.org.uk/vmdt. You can then log in to the system and refer a patient once they have consented.

The coordinator will look at the referral and allocate it to the specialists they think will be most likely to help. These specialists then read the referral and input their advice onto the system. As the referrer, you are able to log on at any time to view the incoming advice from a number of suitable specialists. After two weeks, the coordinator will work with the lead specialist for this case to compile a summary of the advice and a suggested action plan which will then be sent back to you to discuss with the patient.

The service is happy to take referrals for any patients that may have late effects, either physical or psychological, and they will then assess if their panel may be able to offer advice or not. This is an amazing resource and the service is free so if in doubt, refer.

  • Dr Sinead Clarke is a Macmillan GP adviser

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