Reflections from the Front Line: The Walnut Programme in a Nutshell

Categories: Care.

What is the Walnut Programme?

A communication skills workshop funded by Prostate Cancer UK and part of ‘Back in the Driving Seat’ programme provided by the Hospice of St Francis and Peace Hospice Care in Hertfordshire.

Why bother?

What men – and published research – tells us is that men and their families can sometimes find conversations about living with prostate cancer tricky! This could be with each other, doctors and nurses or when talking and supporting each other. How often do you get a chance to safely try out different ways to have these conversations? 

How does it work?

I act as the facilitator for the Walnut programme. I will discuss and agree with the men (and their families) what would be most helpful in a short workshop. The workshop includes two volunteer actors role playing scenarios chosen by the group. The group then decides what and how to have the conversations so that they can try out ideas and thoughts for tricky conversations. 

What do the men think?

The Hospice of St Francis, Peace Hospice Care and the Aylesbury Vale Prostate Cancer Support Group have worked together on the first Walnut Programme workshop. The group as its name suggests, exists to support men that have been diagnosed as having prostate cancer and, just as importantly, it supports their wives, partners and families. The group covers an area stretching from Thame to Berkhamsted. 

Roger and Jeremy tell us:

In our first workshop we planned with Sarah the type of conversations that we found tricky. We wanted to be able to support newly diagnosed men and their families as best as possible. The aim was to try out difficult conversations and discuss different strategies, as well as see and hear the impact of our words in the scenarios. In the workshop we played out two types of conversations, tried out different wording, had feedback from the actors and reflected together. This was felt to be a very valuable exercise.

“These workshops are having a really positive impact on my work – it is helping me to help others see their problems clearly and find solutions to those problems.”

As a result of the partnership we hope to be able to offer a link between prostate cancer patients, the hospices and existing members of the support group. Talking to each other does seem to reap benefits! This also applies to wives and partners of prostate cancer sufferers. Early feedback suggests that this could develop to be a successful and valuable collaboration. 

PS Why ‘Walnut Programme’?………because the prostate gland is about the size of a walnut.

And finally:

Prostate Cancer will affect one in eight of all men in the UK (one in four if they’re of African/Caribbean descent). This means that every hour one man in the UK will die of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is a treatable condition if diagnosed soon enough. In the past months a number of celebrities have publicly admitted that they have prostate cancer and Bill Bailey has appeared in TV ads, urging men to look after themselves by having the simple blood test that could identify the disease early and save their lives. This publicity is a breakthrough. Together we can help each other, as prostate cancer has been a taboo subject among most men and many find it difficult to discuss the topic.

For queries about the Walnut programme please contact: 
Or you can get in touch with Sarah on Twitter at @learnstfrancis

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