New survey to improve UK prostate cancer care

11 Mar 2009

New research spearheaded by the University of Leicester, and announced during Prostate Cancer Awareness month, is set to improve prostate cancer care across England.

A team including members from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Leicester has developed a survey system to help NHS Trusts improve their services.

Results from the surveys, which are funded by the NHS Service Delivery and Organisation R&D Programme, are informing plans for future surveys of cancer care in England. The surveys involved 12 hospitals and over 1,500 patients.

Professor Richard Baker, Head of Department, said: “Thanks to support from a number of hospitals throughout the country we now have a robust means of monitoring the experiences of prostate cancer patients and their carers. This will help hospitals to make a big difference in the way they care for patients with prostate cancer.”

Professor Baker added that prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the UK, with 35, 000 new cases a year and rising. However, surveys have found that patients’ experiences of care for prostate cancer have generally been less positive than for patients with other cancers.

He added: “The team has developed questionnaires for hospitals to use to get feedback from patients so that they can identify where improvements need to be made. Unusually, there is also a questionnaire for their carer (partner/relative) to complete to check whether their needs are being met as they often play a vital role in supporting men with prostate cancer.

“The questionnaires have been thoroughly tested in a number of hospitals around the country and software is also provided to make it easy to record and analyse the answers given. Questions about patients’ and carers’ experiences of care start from the initial appointment with the GP and go on to cover diagnosis, treatment and monitoring.”

The researchers have already found:

  • Patients with access to specialist nurses reported a better experience of care.
  • Access to specialist nurses at all stages of treatment would improve services for men with prostate cancer.
  • Staff need more information on the patients’ experience of care in order to improve their services.

Professor Baker said: “A diagnosis of prostate cancer comes as a shock to many men and their partners; accordingly, health professionals have a duty to impart sensitively and effectively information to those affected –about the disease, the treatment options and possible side effects.

“The level of information and support that patients with prostate cancer receive is not as good as it could be – the reasons for these shortcomings are not clear. Providing information tailored to patients’ individual needs is therefore an important part of improving their experience of care not just at diagnosis but at all stages.”