Nurse-led follow-up for cancer patients may be an “attractive” alternative in future to that currently given by consultants, according to Scottish researchers.
They said that, due to practicalities and costs, the NHS might benefit from a shake-up of cancer after care provision, which saw a greater role for specialist nurses and GPs.
“Specialist nurse-led cancer follow-up may be an attractive alternative to the current setup”
The Aberdeen University researchers added that cancer survivors themselves appeared willing to back such a change, based on survey findings.
Their survey suggested patients would be happy to receive follow-up care from specialist nurses and GPs provided they received it for longer and had access to additional services.
Changing follow-up care in line with survivor’s preferences could lead to more efficient personalised care, which could also cut costs for the NHS, said the study authors in the British Journal of Cancer.
They noted that, as more people survived cancer, specialist-led cancer follow-up was becoming “increasingly expensive and failing to meet many patient needs”. “Alternative models informed by survivors’ preferences are urgently needed,” they said.
The researchers surveyed 668 adults in North East Scotland who had survived melanoma, breast, prostate or colorectal cancer.
“Alternative models informed by survivors’ preferences are urgently needed”
Cancer survivors had a strong preference to see a consultant during a face-to-face appointment when receiving cancer follow-up, noted the study authors.
However, they said cancer survivors appeared willing to accept follow-up from specialist nurses, registrars or GPs provided that they were “compensated” by increased continuity of care, dietary advice and one-to-one counselling.
Longer appointments were also valued, they said, but highlighted that telephone and web-based follow-up and group counselling “were not considered desirable” by survey respondents.
Meanwhile, the study indicated a difference in preference for clinician type among those recovering from different cancer types.
For example, breast cancer survivors wished to see a registrar or specialist nurse, while prostate cancer survivors favoured a GP.
Meanwhile, survivors of colorectal cancer and melanoma said they would accept after care delivered by either registrars, specialist nurses or GPs, instead of a consultant, to get “greater continuity”.
Cancer after care led by nurses may be ‘attractive’ option
In fact, the study authors concluded that the likelihood of greater “care continuity was sufficient compensation for most” types of cancer survivor for not seeing a medical consultant.
Lead study authors Dr Peter Murchie said: “Cancer after care is a hugely important but increasingly expensive patient service.
“Our survey shows that they are prepared to accept after care from other qualified healthcare professionals as long as they receive other benefits – such as greater continuity of care, accessible dietary advice and counselling services,” he said.
“Given the practicalities, costs and the potential to develop continuous care, specialist nurse-led cancer follow-up may be an attractive alternative to the current setup,” he added.