Leukaemia UK has funded a unit which allows people with blood cancer to have stem cell transplants as outpatients

The Leukaemia UK Ambulatory Care Unit at King's College Hospital in London offers stem cell transplants and chemotherapy in an outpatient setting, enabling people to stay in their own homes or in a hotel nearby rather than having to be admitted to hospital.

The unit is a pioneering approach to delivering stem cell transplants which, as an inpatient, has traditionally involved long stays in hospital with limited contact with the outside world to avoid infection.

People treated as outpatients need to fulfil certain conditions, such as being well, walking and independent and have a carer to help when treatment is not taking place.

For anyone not local to King's it is possible to stay nearby in a hotel while treatment takes place. Everyone is monitored very closely with space always kept free on a haematology ward, should any difficulties arise.

This approach enables people to reduce their hospital stays and access help only when they need it. It is also possible to visit this unit daily for treatments such as chemotherapy, prior to and following a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.   

"This unit means that patients have some sort of normality, they're not just in 'patient' mode," says Orla Stewart, lead nurse haematology at King's.

"I hope this is the model of the future and in five years' time being treated as an outpatient for a stem cell transplant will be considered the normal way of doing it."

Leukaemia UK paid for the unit to be built and has also funded a part-time member of the nursing staff. Since the unit opened in April 2016, hospital staff say people undergoing stem cell transplants and chemotherapy have found the procedure to be more a more positive experience and have appreciated the new setting, which is light and airy and looks out towards a nearby park. The new unit enables King's to save hundreds of bed days.

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