21 May 2019

New self-management programme could save NHS resources and support men better

Allowing men to contact their doctors and access PSA test results through an online system gives them just as good support while saving the NHS the cost of routine appointments.

Most men who have been treated for prostate cancer will be familiar with the feeling when waiting for test results.

“It’s an extremely tense time, because so much rests on what they’re going to tell you. You’re praying for good news, but waiting a week or more to find out,” says Eric Hounslow, recalling his experience after being treated for kidney cancer several years ago.

When Eric was later diagnosed with prostate cancer, he took part in a trial of a new way to provide follow-up care online:

“Now I can give my blood at 9 am and access the results myself later that day, saving me from all that stress every six months.

“As well as the fast turnaround, there are a host of other benefits. I can access my appointments, medical details, personal information and surgery reports from anywhere in the world. I can also communicate with my surgical team quickly and easily. As someone who has experienced both systems, I’d recommend this scheme to anyone.”

The new programme that Eric (pictured above) tested gives men access to an online service so they can view their PSA results as soon as it’s uploaded by the lab. They can also complete assessments, view patient information and message their clinical team, removing the need for routine appointments unless there is an issue.

"A win-win"

Researchers from the University of Southampton, funded by the Movember Foundation and delivered in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK, trialled the TrueNTH Supported Self-Management programme in five NHS Trusts.

The results from the three-year trial of over 2,500 men, published in the journal BMC Cancer, show that the programme frees vital NHS resources without worsening outcomes for the men involved. Following these latest findings, similar models are being rolled out elsewhere.

“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,” says Heather Blake, our Director of Support and Influencing.

“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.”

Planning for the long term

This scheme ties in with the NHS’s ambition to digitalise support for men with prostate cancer, providing more tailored post-treatment care. The report shows that this model works and that it meets NICE cost-effectiveness criteria.

“As part of the NHS Long Term Plan we want all patients with cancer to get the best possible follow-up care and support after treatment, and we are working with Cancer Alliances in every part of the country to make sure that this happens,” says Lesley Smith from NHS England.

“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.”