Pressure on lung cancer clinics is increasing with the "2-week wait" initiative. This initiative is one of the key targets set out in the National Health Service (NHS) Cancer Plan for the United Kingdom, whereby all patients presenting with symptoms which may be indicative of a cancer diagnosis will be seen by a consultant within 2 weeks of initial presentation at their primary care provider. This has resulted in busy clinics, with the potential for extended clinic waiting times and unmet needs for information and psychosocial support on the part of patients and families. There is increasing interest in the most appropriate mode of follow-up for patients with lung cancer who are under observation, many of whom have completed specific treatments. Such patients may benefit from specialist nurse review for symptom control and psychosocial support. Nurse-led clinics are safe and cost effective in the oncology and research-funded setting. This study aimed to assess the acceptability of nurse-led follow-up in a large general lung cancer clinic seeing approximately 250 new patients annually.
Over a 34-week period, there were 487 follow-up attendances and 94 (19.3%) of these were made by 72 patients deemed eligible for nurse-led follow-up. Sixty patients were approached and 54 (90%) agreed to participate in the study. A questionnaire containing vignette scenarios of nurse-led, telephone, GP-led, and standard (hospital, medical) follow-up was completed by 34/54 (63%) of eligible patients, 10/20 (50%) carers, 20/31 (65%) staff, and 11/38 (29%) GPs. Respondents rated acceptability of the scenarios on a range of issues on a scale of 1 to 5. Patients also completed the EORTC QLQ C30 and lung module questionnaire. Subsequent interviews were carried out with samples of these respondent groups.
Fatigue, dyspnea, cough, and pain were the most common general symptoms. Both standard and nurse-led follow-up scenarios were highly rated by patients and other respondents and both were highly significantly favored over GP follow-up, which was the least favored in all areas of the questionnaire. Telephone follow-up tended to elicit more polarized reactions, both positive and negative. In interviews, in relation to nurse-led follow-up, the importance of clear protocols, training, and easy access to medical review were highlighted.