Centralisation of specialist cancer surgery services in two areas of England: the RESPECT-21 mixed-methods evaluation

Naomi J Fulop, Angus Ig Ramsay, Cecilia Vindrola-Padros, Caroline S Clarke, Rachael Hunter, Georgia Black, Victoria J Wood, Mariya Melnychuk, Catherine Perry, Laura Vallejo-Torres, Pei Li Ng, Ravi Barod, Axel Bex, Ruth Boaden, Afsana Bhuiya, Veronica Brinton, Patrick Fahy, John Hines, Claire Levermore, Satish MaddineniMuntzer M Mughal, Kathy Pritchard-Jones, John Sandell, David Shackley, Maxine Tran, Steve Morris

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Centralising specialist cancer surgical services is an example of major system change. High-volume centres are recommended to improve specialist cancer surgery care and outcomes.

Our aim was to use a mixed-methods approach to evaluate the centralisation of specialist surgery for prostate, bladder, renal and oesophago-gastric cancers in two areas of England [i.e. London Cancer (London, UK), which covers north-central London, north-east London and west Essex, and Greater Manchester Cancer (Manchester, UK), which covers Greater Manchester].

Stakeholder preferences for centralising specialist cancer surgery were analysed using a discrete choice experiment, surveying cancer patients (n = 206), health-care professionals (n = 111) and the general public (n = 127). Quantitative analysis of impact on care, outcomes and cost-effectiveness used a controlled before-and-after design. Qualitative analysis of implementation and outcomes of change used a multisite case study design, analysing documents (n = 873), interviews (n = 212) and non-participant observations (n = 182). To understand how lessons apply in other contexts, we conducted an online workshop with stakeholders from a range of settings. A theory-based framework was used to synthesise these approaches.

Stakeholder preferences – patients, health-care professionals and the public had similar preferences, prioritising reduced risk of complications and death, and better access to specialist teams. Travel time was considered least important. Quantitative analysis (impact of change) – only London Cancer’s centralisations happened soon enough for analysis. These changes were associated with fewer surgeons doing more operations and reduced length of stay [prostate –0.44 (95% confidence interval –0.55 to –0.34) days; bladder –0.563 (95% confidence interval –4.30 to –0.83) days; renal –1.20 (95% confidence interval –1.57 to –0.82) days]. The centralisation meant that renal patients had an increased probability of receiving non-invasive surgery (0.05, 95% confidence interval 0.02 to 0.08). We found no evidence of impact on mortality or re-admissions, possibly because risk was already low pre-centralisation. London Cancer’s prostate, oesophago-gastric and bladder centralisations had medium probabilities (79%, 62% and 49%, respectively) of being cost-effective, and centralising renal services was not cost-effective (12% probability), at the £30,000/quality-adjusted life-year threshold. Qualitative analysis, implementation and outcomes – London Cancer’s provider-led network overcame local resistance by distributing leadership throughout the system. Important facilitators included consistent clinical leadership and transparent governance processes. Greater Manchester Cancer’s change leaders learned from history to deliver the oesophago-gastric centralisation. Greater Manchester Cancer’s urology centralisations were not implemented because of local concerns about the service model and local clinician disengagement. London Cancer’s network continued to develop post implementation. Consistent clinical leadership helped to build shared priorities and collaboration. Information technology difficulties had implications for interorganisational communication and how reliably data follow the patient. London Cancer’s bidding processes and hierarchical service model meant that staff reported feelings of loss and a perceived ‘us and them’ culture. Workshop – our findings resonated with workshop attendees, highlighting issues about change leadership, stakeholder collaboration and implications for future change and evaluation.

The discrete choice experiment used a convenience sample, limiting generalisability. Greater Manchester Cancer implementation delays meant that we could study the impact of only London Cancer changes. We could not analyse patient experience, quality of life or functional outcomes that were important to patients (e.g. continence).

Future research
Future research may focus on impact of change on care options offered, patient experience, functional outcomes and long-term sustainability. Studying other approaches to achieving high-volume services would be valuable.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherNIHR Journals Library
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023

Publication series

NameHealth and Social Care Delivery Research
PublisherNational Institute for Health Research
ISSN (Print)2755-0060

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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