Enhanced Supportive Care in Cancer Centres: National Cross-sectional Survey

Rachel Caulfield, Jane Gibbons, Lucy E Selman, Karen Forbes, Charlotte A Chamberlain*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Objectives: ‘Early’ Specialist Palliative Care (SPC) has been shown to improve outcomes for patients with advanced cancer, yet patients are often referred late. ‘Enhanced Supportive Care’ (ESC) aims to facilitate earlier integrated supportive care for those with incurable cancer. This study aimed to explore clinicians’ understanding of ESC/SPC delivery through description of current service provision.

Methods: This national cross-sectional survey of 53 cancer centres had two parts. Part 1: Service details, was directed to lead ESC/SPC nurses or consultants about service configuration, and Part 2: Clinician understanding, targeting conceptual understanding of service aims including ESC/SPC teams and oncology consultants (n=262 surveys). Multiple-choice questions explored service provision, referral triggers and evidence of integration with oncology, with free-text responses. Quantitative results were analysed with Fischer’s exact test. Qualitative free-text was line-by-line coded by two authors independently to derive themes.

Results: 56% (30/53) of SPC and ESC teams and 14% (14/100) of oncologists responded. Those involved in ESC self-reported greater integration with oncology compared with non-ESC teams, for example joint case discussions (64.3% 9/14 vs 23.1% 3/13, p=0.05), and timelier patient referral ([> 6 months before death vs < 6 months] (10/14 vs 4/13, p=0.06)). Qualitative themes described ambiguity in definitions of supportive and palliative terms and a perception of timelier identification of patients when ESC was involved.
Providers of ESC perceive greater integration with oncology and potentially timelier referral for patients compared with teams not delivering ESC. Terminology around SPC and ESC remains uncertain across England.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Supportive and Palliative Care
Early online date12 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Mar 2024

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© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2024.


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