Being in safe hands: what’s important to patients attending a regional cancer centre?


  • L. Appleton
  • H. Poole
  • C. Wall


Background: The quality of cancer services and care is central to the experiences of patients and those who accompany them to treatment. This study explored what was important to patients when receiving care, services and treatment at the cancer centre and whether their physical, emotional and social needs were supported by professionals. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were used to explore patients’ views. A purposive, maximum variation sample of 30 patients with colorectal, head and neck or lung cancer were recruited prior to, during or on completion of their treatment. Thematic analysis was used to analyse interview transcripts. Findings: The core theme ‘being in safe hands’ was embedded in the nature of patient-professional interactions. Professionals were instrumental in promoting a positive approach to treatment through their demeanour and expert knowledge, which patients believed contributed to their treatment response. Central to this process was being knowledgeable about staff roles and functions and feeling supported to approach them and ask questions. Staff occupying technical roles were considered less likely to deal with emotional concerns, while professionals who appeared too busy to talk could cause patients to feel they were a burden on the system. Discussion: Findings stress the importance of professionals being visible and accessible to patients, where regular opportunities are created for the expression of emotions and disclosure of needs. Positive patient-professional interactions are enabled through an understanding of staff roles and the promotion of humanistic caring encounters, which assists patients to approach their treatment in an optimum state of mind.





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