What’s the project?

The Health and Social Care Professionals programme, which is funded by the Movember Foundation and Royal Mail, is one of Prostate Cancer UK’s most significant investments to date in improving services. We aim to fund professional roles in the NHS and other partners, to deliver better care for men in their local areas and bring about long term change in the way that services are run. The programme started in 2012 and is likely to be complete in 2016.

How does it work?

We invited NHS and other healthcare organisations to apply for funding. We have funded a programme manager and project officer to manage the programme. In addition, projects are provided with evaluation support, support with project management, training and information on prostate cancer which can be distributed to patients.

At present, project reports suggest a total of 21,378 people have been supported across the lifetime of the HSCP programme. There are now 31 projects which are in full delivery and supporting men. The future potential size of the programme is indicated by the fact that the final total number of projects will be 45.

How was it evaluated?

A research company, ICF GHK, managed the monitoring and evaluation of the programme. Information about projects’ activities and outcomes are collected and analysed on a monthly and quarterly basis, and the researchers support the projects to carry out evaluation according to the plans agreed with us.

Their latest report brings together research findings from several sources, including the monitoring and evaluation plans that projects have been supported to develop; an ongoing programme of contact with projects as part of the monitoring and evaluation support; specific catch-up calls with each projects focussed on their evaluation plans; case study visits to three projects; and projects’ annual monitoring returns to the programme which provide an update on progress, and views on the processes followed.

What did we learn?

As the programme matures there is a growing body of learning for projects, evaluators, the programme team and the wider charity. There is learning at three levels:

Designing, managing and evaluating a programme

There is much to learn from the delivery of the HSCP programme about the design, management and evaluation of future programmes. There are several criteria which should be considered when scoping out future programmes including, focus, size of programmes, contract duration and monitoring and evaluation.

Project management

As projects have progressed, a number of factors informing high quality project management have been identified. These include: setting up formal steering groups to keep key project stakeholders up-to-date with progress; understanding how different stakeholders measure success; developing back-up plans for the personnel challenges; and considering sustainability from an early point in the project.

What works in delivering high quality follow-up care for men with prostate cancer

In the process of leading change activities in their local areas, projects have identified a range of challenges facing follow-up services for men with prostate cancer. Key themes include; the continued need to improve the integration of services (such as the quality of information which follows men from secondary to primary care); the continued need to raise awareness of prostate cancer among at risk groups; and the potential for an expanded role for the allied health professions in delivering follow-up care.

The report made a number of recommendations for managing the current and future programmes.

What will we do now?

Through this programme we are developing a better understanding of what works in improving services and outcomes for men. Each project is contributing to the knowledge base of how to enhance urology services and what a best practice pathway looks like.

We will use the evidence gained from these projects to work to improve care cost effectively. We will look to work with the people that can support us to make this happen, whether at a local, regional or national level.

What impact is it having for people affected by prostate cancer?

Most projects are collecting data on men’s experience of the funded service(s). There are key themes within the programme of projects which are improving the coordination of advice and care, providing information about treatment decisions, and improving access for men to treatments of their choice. Many of the projects are collecting data relating to men's physical or mental wellbeing.

At this stage, the evidence is strongest in relation to the impact on patients’ experience of services and on their ability to self-manage. Nearly 5,000 men report a positive experience, and over 2,500 men report being able to manage their condition better as a result of services provided.

As the programme progresses, more data on the impact of the programme is expected. A key point highlighted by several projects collecting this information, is that these outcomes take time to be realised and data take longer to collect. However, from the projects that have reported data in this area, it is evident that the programme has supported men to become more active, improve their quality of life, and has also impacted on men’s emotional and social wellbeing.

As well as making an impact directly on those affected by prostate cancer, the programme also shows evidence of making an impact at a service delivery level by:

  • Generating savings or helping services to operate with greater efficiency: Responding to local need, several projects aim to introduce new and more efficient ways to manage men’s care.
  • Increased service accessibility: Two projects have so far provided quantitative evidence of the impact of their service on enabling men to access specialist services more rapidly.
  • Improved understanding of ‘what works’ in service delivery: All projects have developed a better understanding of what works in improving services and outcomes for men in this clinical area.
  • Improving the skills and knowledge of other healthcare professionals: To date, thirteen projects have established outcome indicators which relate to activities post-holders are undertaking to educate other healthcare professionals.
  • Generating sustainable change: As the programme matures, and projects’ funding approaches completion, the extent to which the services piloted are sustained (and the nature of this sustainability) becomes a more important question. At present, eight projects have robust plans in place to sustain the funded posts or activities to some degree.