Prostate cancer patients can avoid anxious waits to visit their doctor by seeing test results online as soon as they are available under a new model for after-care.
Men can take control of their own care, and free up vital NHS time as a result, Prostate Cancer UK said after a report on a trial at a number of health trusts showed promising results.
As well as being able to get their results online, people can complete assessments, see their patient information and message their clinical team as part of the digital approach to after-care trialled by researchers from the University of Southampton.
Funded by the Movember Foundation and delivered in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK, the trial saw a supported self-management programme used across five health trusts, developing a toolkit with the aim of other healthcare providers following suit.
The NHS trusts involved in the trial – which ran for three years from 2014 and involved 2,675 men – were University Hospital Southampton, Royal United Hospitals Bath, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Dartford and Gravesham and St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals trust.
An evaluation of some of those patients involved in the trials, published in the BMC Cancer journal, concluded that outcomes were at least the same as with traditional follow-up care, with similar costs in the first eight months.
But overall costs per patient were lower for those involved in the trials because wider use of the health service was lower, a University of Southampton summary of the report said.
While there had been initial concerns about patients having access to results before clinicians had assessed them, the project appeared to show that even if the results were abnormal, those involved were not adversely affected, researchers said.
The model of care requires a new support worker in order to help men without adding to demands on clinical staff, a workshop to ensure men fully understand the scheme and their treatment, and an IT service allowing them to access their test results remotely.
Eric Hounslow, who was part of the trial, said he sometimes had to wait a week or more to get test results.
The 72-year-old, from Romsey, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015, said: “Now I can give my blood at 9am and have the results later that day, saving me from all that stress every six months.
“As someone who has experienced both systems, I’d recommend this scheme to anyone.”
Prostate Cancer UK and the Movember Foundation are now urging all health trusts to use the new approach, saying it will allow for good quality care while cutting costs to the NHS.
Lesley Smith, of NHS England, said: “This scheme is a great example of innovations that local areas can adopt which allow men to take control of their own follow up care.”
Prostate Cancer UK’s Heather Blake said: “This research is a major achievement, proving that this remote, digital and self-managed model can deliver a high quality of care for men, while also giving Clinical Nurse Specialists and consultants more time to focus on newly-diagnosed men.
“Even better, this model actually lowers per patient costs, making it a win-win for cash-strapped NHS trusts. That’s why we want to see supported self-management schemes like this rolled out across the country.”
More than 11,500 men die from prostate cancer in the UK each year and the number of men living with and beyond prostate cancer is set to double by 2030, the charity said.