News Release 

COVID-19 has major impact on psycho-social care of cancer patients

University of Surrey

Psychosocial needs of people affected by cancer are not being adequately met due to the disruption in services caused by Covid-19, a new report in the journal Psycho-Oncology reports.

During this unique study, researchers from six universities, as part of their work on the British Psychosocial Oncology Society Executive Committee, investigated how psychosocial support for those affected by cancer was impacted during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Surveying 94 professionals working in the field of psychosocial oncology in the UK, the researchers identified a number of concerns regarding suspension of face-to-face delivery of care to those affected by the disease. Care is now being delivered remotely by staff at home or in some regions has been suspended entirely.

Those surveyed reported a decline in the number of patients referred to psychosocial services and expressed concern about the impact delays in accessing care would have on patients. The use of telephone/video calls to complete assessments with this group of patients was also found to be more difficult, particularly if there was no existing relationship between the two, making it harder to form a therapeutic alliance.

Dr Kate Absolom, University Academic Fellow in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds and chair of the British Psychosocial Oncology Society, supervised the research. She said: "The results from our survey clearly demonstrate the major upheaval Covid-19 has caused. There are significant ongoing concerns about funding and how services and research activity will be maintained in coming months and years.

"It's vital we monitor how the situation develops and work collaboratively other cancer organisations to mitigate challenges and continue developing psycho-oncology activity in the UK."

The research identified that a lack of face-to-face monitoring and social isolation has led to heightened feelings of anxiety and distress amongst some cancer communities, increasing the need for psychological support. Due to this increased demand and the temporary suspension of services delivering psychosocial support, advice and care, the needs of patients may not be met.

The benefits of delivering care remotely to patients was highlighted by some respondents. Many noted that they were now able to assist patients who were previously unable to travel to them due to distance and illness and many welcomed the flexibility working from home offered to staff.

Dr Jo Armes, Reader in Cancer Care and Lead for Digital Health at the University of Surrey and one of the study's authors, said: "Receiving a cancer diagnosis or living with cancer can be both physically and mentally devastating to a patient and their families. Feelings of depression and anxiety are common which negatively impacts their overall wellbeing.

"Moving psychosocial support to remote delivery, and in some cases suspending it all together, has proven to be difficult for staff to deliver and has resulted in the needs of patients affected by cancer not being met. Due to the current pandemic this has unfortunately been unavoidable but it is important that we learn from this experience and see what works well for patients and what doesn't so that plans can be put in place to deal with similar situations in the future."

The research was conducted in collaboration with Dr Steph Archer (University of Cambridge), Dr Trish Holch (Leeds Beckett University), Professor Claire Foster and Dr Lynn Calman (University of Southampton), Dr Sarah Gelcich (University of Leeds) and Dr Sara MacLennan (University of Aberdeen).

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The research, "No turning back" Psycho?oncology in the time of COVID ?19: Insights from a survey of UK professionals, has been published in the journal Psycho-Oncology.

For further information, please contact:

Natasha Meredith in the press office at the University of Surrey: n.meredith@surrey.ac.uk or 07706838630

David Lewis in the press office at the University of Leeds: d.lewis@leeds.ac.uk or 07710 013287

University of Surrey

The University of Surrey is one of the UK's top higher education institutions and was recognised as the University of the Year in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016. With 125 years of academic heritage since our founding in Battersea, and 50 years of world-class teaching and research in Guildford, the University of Surrey is the intellectual home for more than 16,000 students, 117,000 alumni and over 3,000 staff.

Freedom of thought, pursuit of academic excellence, and the advancement and application of knowledge underpin the wonderful things happening here. Our mission is to transform lives and enrich society through outstanding teaching and learning, pioneering research and impactful innovation.

The University of Surrey has been recognised by four Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Further and Higher Education and is a destination of choice for higher learning in subjects ranging from Engineering to the Arts. As a global University, we are proud of our strong partnerships with internationally leading institutions and businesses, while being firmly engaged with our local community in Guildford and Surrey. We are committed to educating the next generation of professionals and leaders, and to providing thought leadership and innovation to address global challenges and contribute to a better tomorrow for the world.

University of Leeds

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 38,000 students from more than 150 different countries, and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The University plays a significant role in the Turing, Rosalind Franklin and Royce Institutes.

We are a top ten university for research and impact power in the UK, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, and are in the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings 2020. Additionally, the University was awarded a Gold rating by the Government's Teaching Excellence Framework in 2017, recognising its 'consistently outstanding' teaching and learning provision. Twenty-six of our academics have been awarded National Teaching Fellowships - more than any other institution in England, Northern Ireland and Wales - reflecting the excellence of our teaching.

Over a third of our academics are involved in applied research or as consultants to industry, and over the last ten years, the University of Leeds has produced more than 100 'spin-out' companies. http://www.leeds.ac.uk

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