Exploring experiences of cancer care in Wales: a thematic analysis of free-text responses to the 2013 Wales Cancer Patient Experience Survey (WCPES)

BMJ Open. 2016 Sep 2;6(9):e011830. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011830.


Objectives: To provide the first systematic analysis of a national (Wales) sample of free-text comments from patients with cancer, to determine emerging themes and insights regarding experiences of cancer care in Wales.

Design: Thematic analysis of free-text data from a population-based survey.

Setting and participants: Adult patients with a confirmed cancer diagnosis treated within a 3-month period during 2012 in the 7 health boards and 1 trust providing cancer care in Wales.

Main outcome measures: Free-text categorised by theme, coded as positive or negative, with ratios. Overarching themes are identified incorporating comment categories.

Methods: 4672 respondents (of n=7352 survey respondents) provided free-text comments. Data were coded using a multistage approach: (1) coding of comments into general categories (eg, nursing, surgery, etc), (2) coding of subcategories within main categories (eg, nursing care, nursing communication, etc), (3) cross-sectional analysis to identify themes cutting across categories, (4) mapping of categories/subcategories to corresponding closed questions in the Wales Cancer Patient Experience Survey (WCPES) data for comparison.

Results: Most free-text respondents (82%, n 3818) provided positive comments about their cancer care, with 49% (n=2313) giving a negative comment (ratio 0.6:1, negative-to-positive). 3172 respondents (67.9% of free-text respondents) provided a comment mapping to 1 of 4 overarching themes: communication (n=1673, 35.8% free-text respondents, a ratio of 1.0:1); waiting during the treatment and/or post-treatment phase (n=923, 19.8%, ratio 1.5:1); staffing and resource levels (n=671, 14.4% ratio 5.3:1); speed and quality of diagnostic care (n=374, 8.0%, ratio 1.5:1). Within these areas, constituent subthemes are discussed.

Conclusions: This study presents specific areas of concern for patients with cancer, and reveals a number of themes present across the cancer journey. While the majority of comments were positive, analysis reveals concerns shared by significant numbers of respondents. Timely communication can help to manage these anxieties, even where delays or difficulties in treatment may be encountered.

Keywords: QUALITATIVE RESEARCH; cancer; free text; outcomes; patient experience; wales.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wales