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Cancer Psycho-Social Service (CPS)

Cancer Psycho-Social Service (CPS)

The Cancer PsychoSocial Service (CPS) provides evidence-based intervention for patients and whānau who are experiencing psychological, emotional, and social issues associated with cancer. It especially welcomes those patients with barriers to accessing services who may include Māori, Pacific peoples, people with socio-economic disadvantage, remote and rural populations, people with significant co-existing physical, social, intellectual, or mental health issues.

The CPS team comprises registered social workers, psychologists, psychotherapists, and counsellors.

The general criteria for referral are for those with high and complex need defined as:

‘A multiplicity of stressors, poor or overwhelmed coping strategies, insufficient support network, and/or unrelenting distress in the presence of a range of risk factors."

It is necessary that the distress associated with the cancer diagnosis, or suspicion of, is sustained (i.e., not acute) and that there is significant impairment to the person's usual level of functioning. Barriers to engagement or access to recommended treatment are also important reasons to refer to the CPS. However, all referrers are welcome to contact CPS to discuss their patient’s needs.


Frequently Asked Questions

Who will CPS accept?

  • Adults (17 years or over)

  • Those with a ‘high suspicion’ or a new diagnosis of cancer, or a new recurrence.

  • Those enrolled in active treatment, e.g., as inpatient or outpatient of surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

  • Are experiencing psychological/emotional distress associated with cancer and/or social need

  • Palliative patients

Who will CPS not accept?

  • Children under the age of 17 years

  • Those who are under specialist palliative care, or engaged with hospice care

  • Those in private treatment, without shared care

  • A patient who is displaying acute risk of harm to themselves or others

  • A patient with diagnosed or new and acute mental illness – a referral to the mental health service would be more appropriate.

However, in the above situations, we would be happy to discuss with you how these patients could be best supported, please do contact us.

Who can refer?

Referrals from senior medical and nursing staff across the Southern Region of Te Whatu Ora and General Practitioners. Relevant NGO’s and health providers in the field of ‘psycho-oncology,’ in the community will also be welcome to refer and we also accept self-referrals. Please contact us to discuss if required.

What about my patient’s family members and children?

The CPS considers and includes the patient’s family/whānau, who understandably will be upset by their loved one’s serious illness. We offer to support patients and family members with significant concerns raised or aggravated by the patient’s cancer diagnosis, however, we are unable to offer interventions to partners or children who have needs that are unrelated to this. We will endeavor to give advice regarding other appropriate services as possible. Please do contact us to discuss.

What happens to patients who are palliative at diagnosis?

CPS covers patients who are palliative at the point of diagnosis, but the team would be thinking about how best to meet the patients’ needs long-term e.g., the CPS team would be involved in making a referral to the most appropriate service.

What happens if a patient does not meet the threshold for high and complex needs?

The team will look at the most appropriate place to refer to and facilitate the referral.

What happens following a referral to CPS?

The referral will be received via a shared team mailbox: or ERMS and reviewed twice weekly on a Monday and a Wednesday triage meeting, where the most suitable course of action and immediacy of need is discussed within the CPS team. A team member will endeavor to contact the patients by telephone or letter within 5-10 working days. (It is helpful for us to know where the patient is currently located and their preferred form of contact, as well as an indication that it is acceptable for us to leave a phone message if needed).

We aim to provide brief and focused interventions and offer to link patients with other services for further support if required.

How soon will CPS contact/see a patient?

We aim to contact patients within 5 days of receiving the referral, with an appointment usually offered within 2 – 3 weeks depending on service demands.

Where are patients seen, and can you visit them at home?

We will be endeavouring to see patients at a location that they can reach conveniently. Depending on where they are, it could be at our office, a hospital, medical practice, the Cancer Society, or a community hub. There will be opportunities for home visits if the patient's request, or their circumstances are such that a home visit is more appropriate.

Follow up appointments may be arranged utilising Telehealth Video Link if this is acceptable and practical.

Will I receive information from CPS about patient progress?

Initially, the referrer will receive an acknowledgment as confirmation of engagement, and it is ‘possible’ that the CPS intake professional will contact the referrer to discuss patient needs. Progress notes will summarise sequential patient contact (appointments, phone calls, Telehealth calls), and at the completion of engagement with CPS the referrer will receive a discharge letter.

How do I refer a patient?

General Practices can refer via ERMS, and within Te Whatu Ora Southern, referral forms and instructions will be available on Pulse under Consult Request. Alternatively, you can print the referral form & wellbeing questionnaire, scan and then email them both to

Do I need to obtain patient consent?

Yes, we expect that a patient is aware of your referral and has agreed to our contact.

How do I talk to patients about seeing a psychologist or social worker, and what is the difference?

Advise the patient that you would like to refer them to CPS which comprises social workers, psychologists, psychotherapists, and counselors who work specifically within the oncology and haematology teams at the hospitals. It is their role to help people cope with the emotional and practical challenges that understandably arise with having cancer. It is also important to normalise a patient’s distress – being distressed for some means they are not coping which can cause anxiety and depression which can impact treatment outcomes. Often the time of diagnosis or high suspicion of cancer can provide a window of opportunity to introduce the notion of psychological and social support alongside other health care professionals.

Psychological support will focus on an identified concern or set of symptoms (e.g., anxiety, depression body image issues, pain), whilst social work offers a broader view which considers the patient’s family and wider support needs.


How can I contact CPS?

We welcome any queries, thoughts, or concerns. Please contact us at , or 0800 222 158 and ask for the Cancer PsychoSocial Service Team.

  CPS Referral Form (.docx)

Hauora Wellbeing Assessment