Stakeholder perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on oncology services: a qualitative study

Phyllis Butow, Polly E. Havard, Zoe Butt, Ilona Juraskova, Louise Sharpe, Haryana Dhillon, Lisa Beatty, Philip Beale, Maria Cigolini, Brian Kelly, Raymond J. Chan, Laura Kirsten, Megan C. Best, Joanne Shaw

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Background: As COVID-19 spread across the globe, cancer services were required to rapidly pivot to minimise risks without compromising outcomes for patients or staff. The aim of this study was to document changes to oncology services as a result of COVID-19 from the perspectives of both providers and receivers of care during the initial phase of the pandemic. 

Methods: Participants were recruited between June and December 2020 through an email invitation via professional or consumer organisations, two hospital-based oncology services and snowballing. Semi-structured interviews focused on health service changes and their impacts, which were then analysed by thematic analysis. 

Results: Thirty-two patients, 16 carers and 29 health professionals were recruited. Fifteen patients (n = 47%) had localised disease, and 19 (n = 59%) were currently receiving treatment. Oncology staff included oncologists, palliative care physicians, nurses, allied health and psychosocial practitioners. Four themes arose from the data: safety, increased stress and burnout, communication challenges and quality of cancer care. 

Conclusions: There is an ongoing need for cancer-specific information from a single, trusted source to inform medical practitioners and patients/carers. More data are required to inform evidence-based guidelines for cancer care during future pandemics. All stakeholders require ongoing support to avoid stress and burnout.

Original languageEnglish
Article number491
Number of pages9
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number8
Early online date24 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Cancer
  • COVID-19
  • Health service change
  • Oncology
  • Qualitative


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