Warrington pensioner hails fire service for arranging free bowel cancer test

Gwen Pugh receiving a Safe and Well Visit from Kris Greenall, a member of Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service's prevention team

A pensioner from Warrington has hailed Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service for helping her find out that she had bowel cancer ‘before it was too late’.

A member of staff from the prevention team arranged for Gwen Pugh to receive a free home bowel cancer screening kit as part of a Safe and Well Visit on 20 June 2017.

It arrived within a week, and three days after using the kit and sending it off for analysis Gwen was informed that her samples showed cell abnormalities and given an appointment to see bowel cancer specialists at Aintree University Hospital.

The mum-of-three was subsequently diagnosed with bowel cancer and underwent a major operation to remove a tumour at Warrington Hospital.

She has since been told the operation was a complete success and that doctors are hopeful that she is now bowel cancer free.

Gwen, now 79, said: “My husband Gareth and I can’t thank the staff at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service enough for enquiring about my health when they came to our home to sort out a problem we had with our smoke alarms.

“They asked if I had ever received a bowel cancer screening kit from the NHS. I told them that my husband had but I hadn’t and that I would like one.

“They arranged for me to be sent one and although I received it within a week I didn’t use it for a few months.

“It took me discovering some blood after going to the toilet to spark me to use the bowel cancer screening kit.

“Within three days of me using it and sending it off I was told that I had abnormalities and given an appointment at a hospital bowel cancer clinic.

“I was quickly diagnosed with bowel cancer and operated on and I have now been told by specialists that they believed it has all been taken out and been given a positive prognosis in regards to the bowel cancer.

“With everything being done through the bowel cancer screening people as opposed to my own GP, the whole process progressed very quickly.

“Despite me having to have various tests and appointments with specialists to discuss my options, I had my operation less than three months after sending the bowel cancer screening kit off on 18 October 2017.

“The operation was on my husband’s 80th birthday in January 2018.

“I am looking forward to turning 80 myself in February but if it wasn’t for the staff at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service enquiring about my health as part of a Safe and Well Visit and arranging for me to be sent a bowel cancer screening kit I may not be here now.

“They ensured that I was able to get my bowel cancer diagnosed and treated before it was too late and I am eternally grateful to them for effectively saving my life.”

For the over 65s and people who are referred to Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service by partner agencies because they are considered to be at a particular risk, Safe and Well Visits see firefighters and advocates provide far more than the traditional fire safety and smoke alarm advice.

As well as arranging bowel cancer screening kits to be delivered to people, they provide advice on slips, trips and falls prevention during the free visits, tackle winter warmth safety issues in Cheshire households and conduct screenings for atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that can cause strokes.

The free visits also offer support to those who wish to stop smoking or taking drugs or to reduce their alcohol consumption.

Gwen added: “I think it’s a great idea for firefighters and fire and rescue service staff to be trained to help people with health issues when they visit their homes to check that they have working smoke alarms and to give them fire safety advice.

“People tend to trust firefighters and fire service staff and will talk openly with them.

“I certainly found it easy to speak to the fire service staff that have come to our home. They were very friendly and kind and were also extremely knowledgeable about a range of health issues as well as fire issues.

“Yet it is apparent that many people are not aware that the fire and rescue service has branched out in this way.

“Four separate people in the medical profession were surprised when I told them that I had got my bowel cancer screening kit via the fire service. They had no idea that was possible.”

The Safe and Well Visits programme was launched in Cheshire in February 2017 in collaboration with the NHS and local authority directors of public health.

Since then the groundbreaking programme has scooped a host of awards.

The latest success saw the initiative win a 2018 Energy Impact Award. The gong won for tackling affordable warmth issues in Cheshire households during the winter months as part of Safe and Well Visits was presented during the National Energy Action (NEA) Conference in Nottingham.

The initiative also won an Innovation in the Care of Long Term Conditions gong at the NHS Healthcare Transformation Awards for the second successive year.

The renewed recognition at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London came for more than a thousand screenings for atrial fibrillation being conducted as part of Safe and Well Visits across Halton.

The previous Innovation in the Care of Long Term Conditions award win was for bowel cancer screenings carried out as part of visits across Cheshire.

The Safe and Well Visits programme also scooped a Working Together gong at the 2018 iESE Public Sector Transformation Awards, a 2017 Excellence in Fire and Emergency Award for Partnership of the Year and a Showcasing Best Practice Award at the 2017 international Heart Rhythm Conference.

Nick Evans, head of prevention at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The latest figures show that without a Safe and Well Visit almost 29,000 people in Cheshire may have suffered adversely through not knowing where to turn or not realising they may have something needing medical attention.

“And from 1 April 2018 to 25 November 2018 Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service has made 1,621 referrals to the NHS hub at Rugby for bowel cancer screening kits to be sent out to eligible residents.

“Cheshire firefighters and prevention staff have carried out an impressively large number of Safe and Well Visits since the pioneering programme was launched and the figures show that it has been an overwhelming success.

“It helps to save lives, reduce the number of emergency visits to hospital and is an excellent example of the public sector collaborating and partnering up, and using resources more effectively and efficiently for the people we serve in Cheshire.”

People over the age of 65 can book a Safe and Well Visit via our website - Safe and well visits - where residents can carry out their own home safety check by completing a questionnaire. This can also be done by downloading the free Risk Rater app from the App Store or Google Play store.

This home safety check enables people to generate their own personal home safety plan with advice on how to prevent fires.

Date published: Tue, 04 Dec 2018 13:48:54 GMT

Related images


Gwen Pugh receiving a Safe and Well Visit from Kris Greenall, a member of Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service's prevention team