Centralisation of specialist cancer surgery services aims to reduce variations in quality of care and improve health outcomes for patients, but it can also increase travel demands on patients and families. In a recent British Journal of Surgery study of patients, health professionals, and members of the public, individuals were willing to travel longer to have better care and outcomes: on average, 75 minutes longer to reduce their risk of complications by 1 percent, and over 5 hours longer to reduce the risk of death by 1 percent. Findings were similar across groups in the study.
The study included 206 patients, 111 health professionals, and 127 members of the public in England.
"Our findings suggest that people are willing to travel longer if it means having better care and better outcomes. But, if services are not linked with better care and outcomes, people prefer to be treated by their local hospital," said senior author Professor Stephen Morris, of University College London, in the UK. "When planning changes of this kind, it is vital that improvements in care and outcomes are at the heart of proposals."
Professor Naomi Fulop, Chief Investigator, also of University College London, added: "These findings are part of a wider study, called RESPECT-21, which is evaluating the impact of centralising specialist cancer surgery. It is important to understand as part of that wider study what people value about both how care is provided and the outcomes of that care, and how far they are willing to travel to get these."
Professor Kathy Pritchard-Jones, chief medical officer, UCLH Cancer Collaborative commented:
"This study underlines the importance of researchers partnering with NHS leaders to fully understand service improvement work. When we brought together several smaller centres in north central and east London to create larger specialist cancer teams providing complex cancer surgery, we involved patients, carers and health professionals in the service redesign. It is good to now see the evidence that patients and the public value these new services and are prepared to travel further to access the benefits they offer for a specialist treatment that is a planned part of their cancer treatment pathway."