Views of health professionals on the role of primary care in the follow-up of men with prostate cancer

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Background. Follow-up care for prostate cancer has traditionally been led by secondary care in hospital out-patient clinics. As the number of men with prostate cancer increases and secondary care resources face pressure, alternative follow-up models are being sought. Current National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance recommends follow-up outside the hospital setting for patients who are stable 2 years following radical treatment and for those undergoing ‘watchful waiting’.

Objective. To describe current practice in a sample of relevant health care professionals and to seek their views on the role of primary care in prostate cancer follow-up.

Methods. Semi-structured telephone interviews with 38 UK health care professionals, from both secondary and primary care. Transcripts were analysed using the constant comparative method.

Results. There are marked variations in current follow-up practice around the country, with hospital-based follow-up ranging from 6 months to lifetime. The predominant, although not universal, view expressed was that there is both scope and support for primary care to play a greater role, particularly for men with stable disease. This was qualified by the need for supporting education, including guidance on interpretation of prostate-specific antigen values, introduction of robust follow-up systems in primary care, easy access back into secondary (hospital) care, a mechanism for ensuring follow-up data can still be collected for audit purposes and appropriate resourcing.

Conclusions. If primary care is to play a significant role in providing high-quality follow-up care for men with prostate cancer, then steps need to be taken to address the barriers to increased primary care involvement identified by this study.

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