Cancer patients suffering from depression will be invited to participate in the MPCCC’s shared care pilot program from early 2019, and will have access to high quality psycho-oncology treatment close to where they live.

“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 shared care program, aims to overcome these barriers by linking oncology services with trained community-based psychologists and affiliated general practitioners.

Three MPCCC sites including Cabrini Brighton, Monash Health Moorabbin and Peninsula Health Frankston are to pilot the program.  Oncology staff at each site have been engaged in the planning phase and are now are keen to roll out the program to their patients as soon as possible.

“This project addresses an important area of need and offers a great opportunity for our cancer patients with depression to access psychological support and services that they may otherwise not receive,” said Dr Zee Wan Wong, Head of Oncology at Peninsula Health.

Commonly used clinical tools like the patient distress thermometer will be used to identify and refer potential patients to the program.

“Based on the self-assessed distress score and an initial discussion with the practicing oncologist, patients will be approached to participate”, said clinical nurse, Genevieve Murphy.

“Community based psychologists need training to confidently counsel cancer patients who become depressed”, said Prof Kissane.

MPCCC will host a full day workshop on 11 December to commence training of community psychologists. Practice will be guided by a cognitive coping manual and supported by regular mentoring and feedback sessions.

“We currently have six community psychologists who have committed to the program”, said Project Manager, Anne Loupis.

“Cancer patients referred to the program can expect to receive their first counselling session within 2 to 4 weeks, compared to a waiting list of months in the acute setting”, she said.

The general practices aligned with the project will also be supported through provision of medical algorithms and updates on each patient’s progress.

“We anticipate that the first patients will be referred in early 2019”, said Ms Loupis.

To register for MPCCC’s Shared Care program communications and updates, please send your name, organisation and email details to