Cancer Work Support Service (CWSS): An innovative Vocational Rehabilitation service supporting cancer survivors return to work


Session type:


Julie Denning1
1Working To Wellbeing



In 2014 there were 360,000 new cancer diagnoses with a predicted rise to 422,000 by 2022. People of working age are 3.66 times more likely to leave work following diagnosis.

A market wide survey found Cancer is the second highest cause of disability at 21% of all claims and on going fatigue, deconditioning and mental health issues were the key barriers to returning to work (RTW) (Swiss Re, 2014). In recognition of increasing survivorship but a lack of specialist vocational rehabilitation services, Working Towards Wellbeing (W2W) developed a Cancer Work Support Service (CWSS) for cancer survivors in collaboration with a major re-insurer. The CWSS has been running for 5 years and a service evaluation was carried out to understand the on-going effectiveness of the CWSS on RTW.



The service evaluation adopted a mixed methodological approach. Quantitative data was collected at pre and post intervention utilising validated questionnaires including; EQ5D, PHQ 9, EVS, Chalder Fatigue Scale, Work and Social Adjustment Scale to quantify the health changes made by service users. A standardised patient satisfaction questionnaire was completed at discharge to understand the service user’s thoughts on the impact and effectiveness of the service. Qualitative data was collected at discharge in the form of testimonials and used to enrich the quantitative data.



Of 476 referrals into CWSS, 399 have been discharged. Of those, 65% have successfully returned, sustained RTW or resigned/retired,  19% were too unwell to RTW, 5% had  recurrence of cancer, 4% died and 2% self-managed their RTW.

Clinical outcomes achieved:

  • 32% less fatigue 
  • 45% reduced anxiety
  • 48% improved low mood
  • 25% quality of life improvement


Results indicate the CWSS is effective in supporting cancer survivors RTW and improving associated health related changes. Future research should focus on the longitudinal effectiveness and comparison to other services as they evolve.