The provision of nutritional advice and care for cancer patients: a UK national survey of health care professionals


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Jane Murphy, Fehmidah Munir, Fiona Davey, Laura Miller, Ramsey Cutress, Rhys White, Megan Lloyd, Justin Roe, Carol Granger, Sorrel Burden, Lesley Turner

Abstract

Background

People living with and beyond cancer often experience nutrition-related issues. They should receive appropriate advice from trained health care professionals (HCPs) appropriate for the cancer site, their nutritional status and treatment toxicity. To enable this, HCPs should be able to provide appropriate and consistent advice. We investigated current practice for the provision of nutritional advice by HCPs from a UK national survey produced by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Cancer and Nutrition Collaboration.

Method

A 21 item online questionnaire was sent to professional groups and networks that included questions on information provision, guideline awareness, confidence in providing nutritional advice, training and strategies for improving nutritional management.


Results

There were 610 HCPs who responded including nurses (31%), dietitians (25%), doctors (31%) and Speech and Language Therapists (9%). The majority of HCPs discuss nutrition (94%) and provide information on nutrition (77%). However, only 39% of HCPs reported awareness of relevant nutritional guidelines and just 20% were completely confident in providing nutritional advice. Awareness of guidelines varied between different professional groups with most, but not all dietitians reporting the greatest awareness of guidelines and GPs the least (p=0.001). Those HCPs with a greater awareness of guidelines had received training (p=0.001) and were more likely to report complete confidence in providing nutritional advice (p=0.001). The preferred platform of training was equally distributed across face to face training, conference/study days and E-learning/Webinars.

Conclusion

This study is the largest UK survey investigating the provision of nutritional advice for cancer patients across a wide range of HCPs. The findings demonstrate most HCPs discuss nutrition with cancer patients and may provide information. However, many lack awareness of guidelines and confidence in providing nutritional advice. All HCPs should have access to appropriate nutrition education and training, to improve their knowledge and confidence in providing advice and to ensure consistency in practice and quality patient care.

Impact statement

The findings demonstrate the need for more high quality nutrition research to inform the evidence base to enable HCPs provide appropriate nutritional advice to support cancer care.