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Cancer Support: Psychology & Social Work

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What does the Cancer Support Team do?

The Cancer Support Team is a team of clinical psychologists and social workers. The team provides psychological and social support for patients and their whanau at the front end of the cancer pathway (i.e. high suspicion, new diagnosis/recurrence, and intensive treatment).  The team will refer on to other support agencies outside of this timeframe, or if the team believe that they will be better supported by another service.

The team's focus is on providing support to those people who have a significant psychological or social need that is impacting on their ability to access diagnostics or treatment, or where their diagnosis/treatment is impacting on their social, cultural, emotional, psychological and family wellbeing.

The Cancer Support Team is a 3 DHB service, that is, it provides support to patients of Capital & Coast DHB, Hutt Valley DHB or Wairarapa DHB.  There are staff located at each DHB.

The team is part of a wider virtual Cancer Support Team, working alongside other oncology social workers across the 3 DHBs.


Who can be referred to the Cancer Support Team?

Patients can be referred if they fit all of the following criteria: 

  • The patient is over 16 years of age and is being treated in adult services
  • The person is a patient of Capital & Coast DHB, Hutt Valley DHB or Wairarapa DHB
  • The patient has a high suspicion of cancer, or a new diagnosis of cancer/recurrence and is undergoing treatment
  • The patient has significant psychological and/or social issues relating to cancer or which are impacting on their cancer treatment
  • The patient agrees to a referral to the Cancer Support Team

Our focus is on supporting patients with high and/or complex needs. This means that patients are top priority if they have more than one concern (as outlined below), and these concerns are leading to high levels of distress which impact significantly on day to day life.

Social Work:

  • Significant financial hardship (e.g. loss of income, increased expenses)
  • Anxiety/emotional distress
  • Suspected or disclosed family violence
  • Significant impact on family/children/relationships (e.g. caregiving responsibilities, family violence, caregiver stress)
  • Difficulty engaging with treatment because of various social stressors (e.g. socio-economic challenges, cultural/spiritual beliefs, language barriers, geographical isolation, limited support, dependent others)
  • Co-existing issues (e.g. personal/physical/mental health) impacting on the ability to engage with health and social support services
  • Difficulties managing the impact of change, loss and grief associated with the diagnosis and treatment
  • Requires practical support (e.g. accommodation, maintaining independence, home supports)
  • Planning for the future (e.g. wills, advanced care planning, child care).


  • Mood disorder, major adjustment and anxiety related to diagnosis/prognosis
  • Struggling with anxiety, panic or worrying a lot
  • Having difficulty engaging in treatment
  • Having difficulty making decisions about treatment
  • Having difficulty communicating with whanau/friends and colleagues
  • Having difficulty with sleep, pain, nausea, fatigue
  • Significant impact on family members and relationship issues
  • Feelings of grief and loss which may relate to things like the loss of a body part, function or future hope
  • Distress about appearance/body image.


Who won’t be seen by the Cancer Support Team?

There are some situations in which patients will not be seen by the Cancer Support Team. These include:

  • Someone who has not consented to a referral
  • Acute mental health issues (e.g. psychosis, delirium)
  • Patients who are displaying acute risk of harm to themselves or others. Use existing referral pathways for these patients (e.g. Te Haika, Consult Liaison, Community Mental Health)
    • We will work collaboratively with primary mental health providers (e.g., Adult Mental Health Service, Addiction Service or Pain Service) for patients who also have cancer-related issues; but will not be the primary support
  • Patients having private treatment without shared care
  • Patients who have finished treatment (i.e., surveillance, maintenance or palliative care/end of life)
  • Normal grief reactions to cancer diagnosis
  • Patients being treated in the paediatric cancer service
  • The service does not have the scope to conduct neuropsychological assessments as part of service provision


What if a patient has a concern that isn’t related to cancer?

We are unable to see people whose issues do not relate to cancer. Their psychological or social issue must be resulting from their cancer, or having an impact on their cancer treatment. If a patient is not appropriate for our service, we are happy to assist in finding the right service for them.


Can whanau/family members be seen by the Cancer Support Team?

Yes, whanau can be seen with the patient. If appropriate, and if the patient consents, we are able to see whanau without the patient present. If whanau members require their own individual support, we will support them to find an appropriate service.


Do patients need to consent to a referral?

Yes, patients need to understand that they are being referred to the Cancer Support Team and consent to this.


Mon – Fri8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

Referral Expectations

Who can refer?

Referrals will be accepted from:

  • Healthcare Providers (e.g. DHBs GPs, PHOs)
  • Cancer-related Non Government Agencies (NGOs).


How do I refer a patient to the Cancer Support Team?

Currently, to refer a patient to the Cancer Support Team:

  1. Ask the patient if they consent to being referred and explain how it might be helpful
  2. Complete the paper or interactive PDF referral form and FAX it through to the appropriate destination indicated on the form
  3. An electronic referral form is currently only available within CCDHB and HVDHB (on MAP/Concerto).


Can I refer via phone, email, or clinic letter?

We prefer that you use the referral form. These forms are designed to give us the information we need to appropriately triage the patient and therefore give the patient the best care we can offer. We will only accept a referral via clinic letter if it contains all the necessary information as outlined in the referral form and the relevant cancer support staff members are cc’d into the letter.


How do I know whether to refer to Social Work or Psychology?

The social workers and psychologists in our team use the same referral form. Please provide as much information as you can about the patient’s needs and the team will allocate the patient to the appropriate clinician.


What happens when a referral is made to the Cancer Support Team?

Referrals are received by the Cancer Support Team between Monday and Friday. These are read, clarified as appropriate and followed up in a timely manner. The referrer will receive an email to let them know the outcome of the referral.


How quickly will a patient be seen by the Cancer Support Team?

We aim to contact patients within 5 days of receiving a referral, with an appointment usually offered within 1-3 weeks depending on service demands.  


Where are patients seen?

We endeavour to see patients at a location they can reach conveniently. Depending on where they are, it could be at the hospital, medical practice, the Cancer Society, or a community centre. In some circumstances we may offer a home visit, if this is desired and/or appropriate.


There are no charges for this service.

Document Downloads

Contact Details

  • Phone

    (04) 806 2373/2392

  • Fax

    (04) 385 5581

Postal Address

Cancer Support: Psychology & Social Work
ORA Allied Health
Level 10, GNB
Wellington Regional Hospital
Capital & Coast DHB

This page was last updated at 7:33AM on December 4, 2019. This information is reviewed and edited by Cancer Support: Psychology & Social Work.