Background: Evidence supports the role of rehabilitation in the management of lung cancer symptoms. Previous research reports that rehabilitation needs are inadequately recognised and managed, which may adversely affect patients' quality-of-life and create burden for caregivers.
Aims: This study aims to explore the perceptions of palliative care and respiratory multidisciplinary team (MDT) members about the role of rehabilitation for lung cancer patients, examine patterns of referral for lung cancer patients to rehabilitation services, and highlight the barriers which prevent the referral of lung cancer patients to rehabilitation services.
Methods: Questionnaires were completed by MDT members within a regional cancer network during June 2010.
Results: Fifty-nine healthcare professionals participated. Ninety-four per cent of respondents perceived their patients had rehabilitation needs. Referral most commonly occurred during the palliative (29.6 %) and post-treatment (23.7 %) disease phases. Barriers to referral included "lack of knowledge of services or referral mechanisms" (28.8 %), "waiting lists" (28.8 %) and the perception that patients "do not desire rehabilitation" (22 %). Rehabilitation needs were most frequently discussed at palliative in-patient MDT meetings [reported as "often" by 37 (62.7 %) respondents] and least discussed at lung MDTs (half of respondents reporting that rehabilitation was "never" discussed). Rehabilitation services were considered adequate by 39 % of respondents.
Conclusions: Long waiting times and lack of knowledge of services are among several factors that may prevent lung cancer patients being offered rehabilitation. In order to improve the quality of care delivered to cancer patients, it is important to remove barriers that affect delivery of rehabilitation services.