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ACCESS Program

Cancer Council, with funding by the Victorian Department of Health, is delivering the Accessing Cancer Care Equitably using Support Services (ACCESS Program) across Victoria to improve access to supportive care for people affected by cancer.

The project aims to support the acute and primary health sectors to respond to increased demand for supportive care screening, psycho-oncology and practical support referral for people affected by cancer during COVID-19 pandemic.

This program aligns with the Victorian Cancer Plan 2020-2024, which recognises supportive care as vital to delivering quality cancer care.


Cancer support referral pathway for health professionals


Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Cancer Council participating in the ACCESS program?

During COVID-19, Cancer Council heard from clinicians about the pressures placed on resourcing that have resulted in the de-prioritisation of supportive care screening, assessment and referral. Given the barriers to accessing supportive care during the pandemic we expect demand for supportive care services to intensify, increasing the strain on nursing, allied health and psycho-oncology services within hospitals.

By assisting health services to deliver supportive care to their patients we can help to provide equitable access to supportive care services for all Victorians and improved health outcomes for people affected by cancer.

How is the ACCESS program being rolled out?

We will work with the Integrated Cancer Services (ICS) and health services to develop and implement tailored supportive care referral pathways.

  • The first step for this is to conduct an audit to determine what supportive care the health services across the state currently provide or refer to.
  • This information will help us to identify gaps in services and allow us to understand the specific needs within health services and regions
  • We will then work to imbed tailored supportive care referral pathways to Cancer Council services and those available in the broader community, for each health service.

Is the ACCESS program only for regional and rural health services?

No. The ACCESS project will be delivered across all regional, rural and metropolitan regions. However, we will be particularly focusing on rural and regional communities and underserved populations that historically have experienced inequitable access to supportive care services.

How long is the program going for?

The program will be implemented in two phases over four years.

Phase 1 begins with the services audit and a pilot with Barwon South West Regional ICS and Grampians ICS, followed by the remaining rural and regional ICS including Gippsland Regional ICS, Hume Region ICS and Loddon-Mallee Regional.

Phase two begins July 2022 and includes rollout to metropolitan ICS and focuses on inequitable access to supportive care services for underserved populations including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, of which metropolitan ICS have concentrated populations.

How will Cancer Council manage the increase in requests for their services?

To meet increased demand, Cancer Council has recruited three 13 11 20 cancer nurses in regional areas (Ballarat, Geelong and Stawell), which will help to forge stronger connections with local health services and better understand the unique needs of people with cancer and their families.

We will work to increase capacity within our psycho-oncology counselling and financial counselling, planning and legal services to complement existing services within hospitals and local communities.

Cancer Council will support health services to implement new referral pathways through tailored education workshops and promotion campaigns.  Success of the project will be evaluated through pre and post implementation data analysis conducted by Deakin University, which will be shared with health services. 

What are the benefits to staff and health services who participate?

Health professionals working in cancer care are stretched right now, as are supportive care services within hospitals. While you may have mechanisms to screen patients for unmet needs, it can be hard to put referrals in place as it can take time which you may not have.

The ACCESS program not only aims to improve access to supportive care for people affected by cancer, it will ease some of the burden on health professionals by creating a simple referral pathway to identify a person’s supportive care needs and make timely referral to appropriate services.

We have created an online referral form for health professionals to make direct referrals to our 13 11 20 service on behalf of patients and carers who need support. Our 13 11 20 nurses will contact the person via phone or email at a time that suits them and will complete a supportive care screen for patients and carers who are referred. The nurse will work with them to put in place any services you may have identified when making the referral, as well any other supports we may identify as being helpful.

Is this a new service that Cancer Council is offering?

No. Cancer Council has provided information and support services to people affected by cancer for over 25 years . Our 13 11 20 phone service is staffed by oncology nurses who can provide cancer information for a broad range of supportive care services. The ACCESS program is designed to assist health services with their supportive care needs by providing additional support through our 131120 service.

How can I get involved with the program?

Cancer Council will be liaising with Integrated Cancer Service (ICS) contacts as we roll out to regions across Victoria throughout 2021-2022. We will work with the ICS to identify health services in the region who have capacity to participate in the project as well as key contacts at each service who can then support the development and implementation of tailored referral pathways.

Will this mean more work for me?

We are working closely with Integrated Cancer Services to support the health services in their participation in this project. Input from health services will largely be advisory however, we are keen to have direct input from representatives at health services, to co-develop new referral pathways that complement existing services and provide increased access to support.

How do I refer a patient to Cancer Council for supportive care?

There are two ways to refer people to our supportive care services:

  1. People can self-refer by calling 13 11 20 Monday to Friday between 9-5pm and speaking with an oncology nurse. Alternatively, they can email and ask a question.
  2. Health professionals can refer a person to our services via our Support referral form. Our nurses will contact your patient directly and provide a follow up to the referring health professional as to what support was provided to their patient.

When I refer a patient, do I hear back from Cancer Council about what support was provided?

Yes. With the patient or carer’s consent, we will provide you as the referrer with a brief email summary of the outcome of the referral, as well as any services put in place. We can also let you know if we have planned to make a follow up call to the person referred. We will also be working with health services to provide regular reporting on the number of referrals as well as de-identified aggregate information on the nature and themes of referrals received.

What information and support services does Cancer Council provide?

13 11 20 information and support service

Cancer Council 13 11 20 is a free and confidential service, available nationally via Cancer Councils in each state and territory.  In Victoria, the service is staffed by experienced cancer nurses who provide up-to-date information, practical and emotional support to anyone impacted by cancer.

This service provides the following information and support:

General cancer information from an oncology nurse

Our experienced oncology nurses are available on our 13 11 20 information and support line from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, they can:

  • Talk about the effects of specific types of cancer and explain what will happen during and after treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and surgery.
  • Discuss concerns and answer questions.
  • Connect people with emotional and practical support programs
  • To contact a Cancer Council nurse confidentially, call 13 11 20 or email Families, friends, carers and health professionals are also welcome to call.

Financial, legal and work-related advice

If a cancer diagnosis is causing financial, legal or workplace complications then Cancer Council can connect eligible people with professional services for free advice.

Our legal referral service can assist with:

  • Wills and Powers of Attorney
  • Insurance claims
  • Employment issues
  • Legal matters relating to financial hardship

Financial planners can advise on:

  • Insurance
  • Superannuation

Our workplace advice program can assist with:

  • Disclosing a diagnosis
  • Coping with side effects at work
  • Returning to work after treatment

Qualified small business accountants to advise on:

  • Tax
  • Appointing a caretaker
  • Selling a business and assets


Financial Counselling Program

A cancer diagnosis can result in unexpected expenses and out of pocket costs. If your patient is finding it hard to manage their financial situation, they may benefit from speaking with one of our financial counsellors.

Cancer counselling

Cancer and its treatments can affect everyday life and relationships. We can offer free, short-term phone counselling to help your patient and those closest to them work through any cancer-related concerns. This is available for people who otherwise would not be able to either afford or have access to a similar service in their area.

Peer support (telephone, face to face and online)

Support groups provide a forum for exchanging stories and experiences. Sharing and learning in this way can help your patients feel less alone and better able to cope with the impact of cancer. Cancer Council can connect your patients and carers to free, confidential support groups facilitated by a trained leader that meet in person, online, or over the phone. 

One-to-one support

People often find it helpful to speak to someone who has ‘been there before’. Through our Cancer Connect program we can match your patient or carer with a trained volunteer who has been through a similar cancer experience. This includes people with cancer or a high genetic risk of cancer, family members, and those considering participation in clinical trials. Conversations are confidential and take place over the phone.

Wig services

We offer a free wig loan service to people affected by cancer related hair loss.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions we are currently operating a postal service only, as face-to-face services and appointments are on hold. 

Cancer education programs

The ongoing impact of a cancer diagnosis can be challenging – before treatment starts, when it’s underway and after it’s finished. This program is for people who’d like to meet others living with cancer and want practical information from trained health professionals in an informal, supportive environment.  Managing Cancer is designed to support people as they come to terms with the varying impacts of their diagnosis and treatment. Cancer Wellness provides support to people at a later point to move from diagnosis and treatment towards overall post-treatment wellness. Both sessions are held regularly at local health services across Victoria. Family and friends are welcome to attend.

Holiday Break Program (currently on hold)

Sometimes people just need a little time out to relax and recharge. Our Holiday Break Program offers short getaways, at no cost, to people affected by cancer – a perfect way to share quality time with loved ones, away from hospitals and treatment.


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Questions about cancer?

Call or email our experienced cancer nurses for information and support.

Contact a cancer nurse