Follow-up of curatively treated cancer in primary care: a qualitative study of the views of Dutch GPs

Br J Gen Pract. 2022 Jul 28;72(721):e592-e600. doi: 10.3399/BJGP.2021.0519. Print 2022 Aug.


Background: Follow-up for cancer typically occurs in secondary care, and improved survival has increased demands on these services. Other care models may alleviate this burden, such as moving (parts of) follow-up care for curatively treated patients from secondary to primary care (care substitution).

Aim: To explore the opinions of GPs regarding the potential benefits, barriers, and requirements of care substitution for breast and colorectal cancer.

Design and setting: A qualitative study of the opinions of purposively sampled GPs in Dutch primary care.

Method: Focus group sessions and individual semi-structured interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed by two independent researchers using thematic analysis.

Results: Two focus groups (n = 14) were conducted followed by nine individual interviews. Three main themes were identified: perceived benefits, perceived barriers, and perceived requirements. Perceived benefits included better accessibility and continuity of care, and care closer to patients' homes. Uncertainty about cancer-related competences and practical objections were perceived as barriers. Requirements included close specialist collaboration, support from patients for this change, and stepwise implementation to avoid loss of existing care quality.

Conclusion: Most GPs reported that they were not in favour of complete care substitution, but that primary care could have greater formal involvement in oncological follow-up if there is close collaboration with secondary care (that is, shared care), support from patients, sufficient resource allocation, stepwise implementation with clear guidelines, and monitoring of quality. Clear and broadly supported protocols need to be developed and tested before implementing follow-up in primary care.

Keywords: breast cancer; colorectal cancer; follow-up care; general practice; qualitative research; shared care.

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • General Practitioners*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Qualitative Research