Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium (MPCCC) is to pilot an innovative model of care enabling cancer patients with depression to have improved access to psychology services.

Research has shown around twenty percent of cancer patients and survivors suffer with clinical depression. If undetected or under-treated, depression can severely impact quality of life and coping with disease burden.

Treatment is traditionally delivered by hospital-based psychologists and psycho-oncologists. Currently many cancer patients in need of evidence-based psych-oncology interventions do not receive assistance, because of barriers with access to hospital-based services.

“Clinical depression is the most prevalent psychological condition affecting cancer patients, but many patients do not receive treatment for their depression, due to a chronic shortfall in the hospital based psycho-oncology workforce” said Prof David Kissane, project lead and Head of the Department of Psychiatry at Monash University, Monash Health and Cabrini.

MPCCC’s twelve month program will train and mentor community based psychologists to treat cancer related depression and will establish a patient referral pathway from the acute hospital setting to community based services, so that cancer patients can access these services close to where they live.

“Community based psychologists aligned with general practices need training to confidently counsel cancer patients who become depressed, creating a collaborative care model between psychologist, GP and hospital staff”, said Prof Kissane.

The project is based on a collaborative care model and interventions developed by the national Psycho-oncology Co-operative Research Group (PoCoG).

“This is a fantastic opportunity to improve supportive care services for patients utilising best-practice integrated models of care. If the model proves effective, we can use it to help cancer patients suffering with anxiety and adjustment disorders as well,” he said.

New funding provided by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in mid-April will support the MPCCC’s pilot project for shared-care for cancer-related depression.