Provision of oncology services in remote rural areas: a Scottish perspective

Authors


Sarah Smith, Department of General Practice and Primary Care, Foresterhill Health Centre, Westburn Road, Aberdeen AB25 2AY, UK (e-mail: s.m.smith@abdn.ac.uk).

Abstract

There is a paucity of research into rural health care services. In particular little is known about the provision of specialist cancer services for patients who live in remote rural areas of the UK. This study set out to investigate current models of medical and clinical oncology care in Scotland. A national survey with key health professionals was conducted to identify rural oncology schemes currently in operation. Detailed quantitative data about the schemes together with qualitative data on how health professionals view current models of care were collected by a computer-assisted telephone survey. Schemes that currently provide outpatient and chemotherapy oncology services for remote rural patients fell into three categories: central clinics (5); shared care outreach clinics with chemotherapy provision (11); and shared care outreach clinics without chemotherapy provision (7). All radiotherapy was conducted at central clinics (5). Widely varying practices in delivery of cancer care were found across the country. The main issues for professionals about current models of care involved expertise, travelling and accessibility (for patients), communication and expansion of the rural service. Nation-wide consistency in cancer care has still to be achieved. Travelling for treatment was seen to take its toll on all patients but particularly for the very remote, elderly and poor. Most professionals believe that an expansion of rural services would be of benefit to these patients. It is clear, however, that the proper infrastructure needs to be in place in terms of local expertise, ensured quality of care, and good communication links with cancer centres before this could happen.

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