Cancer appointment experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic

This report shares the results of Healthwatch Norfolk’s project about people’s experiences of cancer appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic in Norfolk and Waveney. The project aimed to find out about experiences and views on in-person and virtual (phone, video, and e-mail/e-messaging) appointments.

We found out that most people were happy with the appointments they have had about their cancer since March 2020. Patients told us that they prefer in-person appointments to virtual appointments. Professionals told us that patients who did not have access to technology or struggled to use technology would find it difficult to access virtual appointments. Those who may be digitally excluded included elderly patients, patients with hearing loss or other sensory difficulties, disabled patients, and patients who did not have access to or know how to use technology.

People told us that they thought in-person appointments were more personal and better for:

First meetings with the clinician and building relationships with patients.

Feeling more supported and that the clinician cared.

Diagnosis appointments or when patients need to be told bad news.

Physical examination.

Non-verbal communication such as body language or seeing how well someone looks.

Virtual appointments were seen as good for:

Routine and follow-up appointments when the appointment is straight-forward.

Convenience, including saving patients’ and professionals’ time and not having to travel to appointments.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly safer for those shielding.

Making clinicians easier to contact for questions.

For both in-person and virtual appointments we heard:

Experiences with staff were important. Patients liked staff who were helpful and caring.

It was important to patients that questions were answered in appointments, and that they did not feel rushed.

I would prefer a face-to-face appointment when discussing something as emotional or difficult as a cancer diagnosis or treatment. I would prefer to have someone with me for support.

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