TWO charities have joined forces for a major new project aiming to improve the survival chances of people with Wiltshire who have cancer.

Macmillan Cancer Connections is a brand-new partnership between Community First and Macmillan Cancer Support. The two-year project, which launched this week, aims to understand how rural isolation can affect the experience and wellbeing of people living with cancer in Wiltshire.

Leading the project will be former Wiltshire Community Organiser Alex Neale, who has been appointed as Macmillan Senior Community Development Coordinator.

Macmillan Cancer Connections aims to identify the challenges that cancer patients in rural Wiltshire experience, such as social isolation or travelling long distances to regular hospital appointments, and how this can affect cancer outcomes.

The initiative will work to address these challenges by developing sustainable community-based solutions which support the wellbeing of local cancer patients. The project is funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and will be delivered by Community First Wiltshire & Swindon.

Jane Windle-Hartshorn, Head of Community Development & Strategy at Community First, said: “I am delighted to welcome Alex to the Community First team as Macmillan Senior Community Development Coordinator. Alex brings a vast amount of experience in community activities and events and will play a pivotal role in the Macmillan Cancer Connections project. "Alex’s role will involve listening and capturing the cancer experiences of local people affected by cancer to develop a broad range of community-based solutions that meet their health and wellbeing needs.”

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen completed a study that showed rurally isolated patients in Scotland living more than an hour away from a major hospital were more likely to die within a year of diagnosis than those living nearby, prompting questions about how rural living and travelling long distances for cancer treatment could be adversely affecting cancer outcomes. Macmillan Cancer Connections aims to explore these questions within Wiltshire working to identify how Community First, Macmillan, Wiltshire CCG and other partners can support and deliver future solutions to support those who need it most.

Julian Backhouse, Macmillan Partnership Manager for Wiltshire, said: “We are so pleased to partner with Community First on this new brand-new initiative. It is so important to listen to local people’s experiences and understand what could be making it difficult for them to access cancer services and support their wellbeing.

"Alex and the Community First Wiltshire & Swindon team have a deep understanding of the local community and we are thrilled to work alongside them on this innovative project.”

For further updates on projects in the community, visit