NHS Heroes: Grace heads up pioneering service to detect cancer

26th Jan 2024

She leads the life-saving Cancer Hotline set up at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust to help patients who are suffering with symptoms of the disease.

But for Grace Preece, her role at the organisation is more than just a job.

Her drive to deliver compassionate care to patients comes after seeing her own mum suffer with the disease.

The 35-year old’s passion for cancer care stems from personal experience, and she has dedicated her career to ensuring timely detection, treatment, and improved survival rates for patients.

Grace, from Walsall, said: “As a nurse, I witnessed the exceptional care my mother received during her cancer treatment. That experience became the driving force behind my decision to focus on this specialist service. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of patients facing this challenging journey.

“The Cancer Hotline was launched in October 2022 with the backing of NHS England. The service allows patients to self-refer if they suspect they have cancer symptoms by calling a number. I triage these self-referrals, guiding patients onto the appropriate assessment and treatment. In it’s first year, the service has seen more than 30 per cent of callers referred for further investigative tests.”

Grace has excelled throughout her career, focusing on developing her skills and showing real ambition.

She explained: “I started as a gastroenterology development nurse in upper gastrointestinal (UGI) and hepatobiliary pancreatic (HBP) cancers, and eventually became a clinical nurse specialist for both.

“As well as leading the Cancer Hotline, I’m also a trainee advanced clinical practitioner (ACP) assessing patients who are referred to the Trust with non-specific symptoms of cancer.

“I will review these referrals, assess, and book patients into my clinic for a further evaluation, and if needed more investigations. It’s all about ensuring a streamlined and supportive pathway for patients through the cancer investigation process.”

But Grace doesn’t stop there. She is also pursuing a Masters degree to  qualify as an advanced clinical practitioner.

She added: “Three standout moments in my career include the growth of the non-specific symptom service – witnessing it evolve into the impactful service it is today. Secondly, my involvement in the Cancer Hotline project, which earned the service the Clinical Team of the Year award in the Trust’s Star Awards last year. Finally, my greatest achievement is the incredible team and patients I’ve had the privilege to work alongside, making my job as enjoyable as it is.”

Throughout her four years at the organisation, Grace has emphasised providing a high standard of compassionate care. She is known for her kindness and relatability with both staff and patients, ensuring everyone feels welcomed and heard. Grace attributes her success to the continuous support and encouragement she receives from her team and the broader cancer services community.

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