Purpose: There has been considerable interest in the "two-week rule" referral pathway efficacy for patients with suspected colorectal cancer. This study aims to explore the psychological impact on these patients.
Design/methodology/approach: Consecutive patients referred for urgent investigations under the "two-week rule" were invited to take part in semi-structured interviews using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim and analysed using investigator triangulation to enhance data trustworthiness.
Findings: Ten out of 23 (43.5 per cent) patients consented to interviews; none were diagnosed with cancer. Four super-ordinate themes were explored, referring to the "making sense of the threat to health", impact on self, impact on others, reflections on the "two-week rule" referral, and its investigative process. Participants reported their anxiety, fear, vulnerability and coping mechanisms, but also raised concerns about the communication received during the "two-week rule" referral process. Female participants preferred a female endoscopist.
Originality/value: This study is the first of its kind exploring the psychological effects of the "two-week rule" process for colorectal cancer, highlighting potential areas for improvement in patient information, and satisfaction with the referral process.