The role of the district nurse (DN) is difficult to define. Knowledge about the perspectives of patients with cancer, and their informal carers, on the roles of DNs and community services is lacking. The aim of this study is to identify the roles of DNs and community services as perceived by patients with cancer and their carers before and after hospital discharge. Seventy-one pre- and post-discharge conversational interviews were conducted with cancer patients and carers, and analysed thematically. Some interviewees lacked knowledge about services, were confused about differential roles and/or held stereotypical views. Some failed to disclose needs to services, received insufficient support or experienced unnecessary and inconvenient visits. Patients with few or no physical care needs were surprised to receive DN visits. Those receiving personal care from agency carers expressed dissatisfaction. Cancer patients and carers may benefit from post-discharge/ongoing assessment by DNs. However, effectiveness could be inhibited by limited disclosure caused by confusion, stereotyping, negative experiences and ideas that other patients have greater needs. Information might diminish these factors but, first, services need to clarify their roles. Organization and delivery of personal care services varies locally and DNs provide personal care during terminal illness. Community services should perform intra- and interservice clarification before publicizing differential roles to cancer patients and carers. This might facilitate disclosure of need to DNs. Patient and carer needs for information on service roles, and patients' preferred roles in self-care are under-researched.
- Community services
- District nursing