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Practices have a ‘unique opportunity’ to support cancer patients’ families, study suggests

by Jess Hacker
24 January 2022

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General practice is uniquely positioned to offer greater support to both patients going through some cancer treatments and their relatives also registered at the practice, a study has suggested.

Published in the BJGP, the researchers looked to explore patients’ perspectives on primary care’s supportive role following a Whipple procedure: the surgical treatment for pancreatic cancer.

The study authors found that patients most often sought support from family and friends, but that they felt ‘unable’ to share their anxieties and were often concerned about the impact of their illness on their family.

The authors also noted that while family members may be present during a patient’s treatment in a secondary care setting, surgeons and oncologists do not have clinical responsibility towards them.

‘On the other hand, family members may be registered with the same general practice, offering a unique opportunity for primary care to provide support to both the patient and their relative,’ the researchers said.

Meanwhile, patients also reported feeling as though the ‘burden had been placed on them to educate their GP’ about aspects of their care.

These patients suggested that the practice should be ‘proactive’ in offering both physical and psychological support to help alleviate that weight.

For example, patients felt overwhelmed self-managing a long-term condition with ‘complex’ medication regimes.

This could offer an opportunity for other primary care staff such as community pharmacists or practice nurses to give ongoing support and education in this area, which would also relieve some pressure from GPs.

However, recent estimates suggest the Government is not on track to fill the 26,000 Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) roles it pledged to by 2024.