Correspondence between primary and secondary care about patients with cancer: a Delphi consensus study

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Introduction To provide optimal care for patients with cancer, timely and efficient communication between healthcare providers is essential. In this study, we aimed to achieve consensus regarding the desired content of communication between general practitioners (GPs) and oncology specialists before and during the initial treatment of cancer. Methods In a two-round Delphi procedure, three expert panels reviewed items recommended for inclusion on referral and specialist letters. Results The three panels comprised 39 GPs (42%), 42 oncology specialists (41%) (i.e. oncologists, radiotherapists, urologists and surgeons) and 18 patients or patient representatives (69%). Final agreement was by consensus, with 12 and 35 items included in the GP referral and the specialist letters, respectively. The key requirements of GP referral letters were that they should be limited to medical facts, a short summary of symptoms and abnormal findings, and the reason for referral. There was a similar requirement for letters from specialists to include these same medical facts, but detailed information was also required about the diagnosis, treatment options and chosen treatment. After two rounds, the overall content validity index (CVI) for both letters was 71%, indicating that a third round was not necessary. Discussion This is the first study to differentiate between essential and redundant information in GP referral and specialist letters, and the findings could be used to improve communication between primary and secondary care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4199-4205
Number of pages7
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number11
Early online date1-Mar-2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov-2019


  • Correspondence
  • Oncology
  • Primary care
  • Secondary care

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