Community Oncology webinar series created and delivered during COVID-19
A programme of 6 webinars created during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to provide free continuing professional development to primary health care professionals.
The Palliative Care team at the University’s School of Medicine has been delivering effective short courses for many years. The team, supported by the CPD Unit, has created a suite of CPD courses and standalone postgraduate level modules in aspects of palliative and end of life care. There is also an MSc in Palliative Medicine for Health Care Professionals.
The Community Oncology course was established in 2019 as a 1-day face-to-face session, designed to provide the most up-to-date resources for GPs and primary care workers. The session was very popular and was originally scheduled to run again in 2020. This had to be cancelled as local health care teams prepared for lockdown services and the pandemic.
Dr Mick Button
Consultant Oncologist, Velindre Cancer Centre
Dr Elise Lang
Macmillan GP, Velindre Cancer Centre
Impact of COVID-19
The beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 resulted in necessary changes to the delivery of health care, including primary care and oncology, to protect the NHS from overwhelming patient numbers as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19). The health requirements of the local population increased as a result both of the continued pandemic and service delivery changes.
The impact of the pandemic on the management of chronic health conditions and cancer has been clear – with new cancer patients being reluctant to seek advice and diagnosis, and treatment delivery options changing.
The potential number of cancer patients is expected to increase as the pandemic eases, and this is already evidenced by statistics. Access to health care has become more complicated, and local arrangements for education and support greatly changed with the absence of study leave, increased workload, and social distancing making face-to-face teaching impractical.
The media interest in health care, including access in general and cancer management in particular, resulted in requests for support and education from colleagues.
Responding to the urgent need for support in primary care for cancer diagnosis and management arising from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a collaborating group delivered five lunchtime webinars on community oncology topics.
The National Clinical Framework (WG 2021) emphasises the need for greater collaboration between primary and secondary care teams. Education programmes such as this can support such collaboration, improving primary care teams’ awareness around cancer diagnosis, treatment and how care is organised and delivered, which can in turn support better clinical care, including earlier diagnosis and management of urgent cancer related problems.
The Community Oncology team was acutely aware that the target audience is largely made up of front-line workers who were under immense pressure due to coronavirus (COVID-19) and who had little time for CPD training; however, the team was also very keen to provide a free resource in order to support staff.
Additionally, as the number of referrals due to cancer had recently dropped (because fewer patients were reporting symptoms during the pandemic) it was clear there was an urgent need to support primary health care teams in managing oncology patients in the community.
The collective Palliative Care team used their expertise to develop online professional development sessions that supported health care professionals who needed training on diagnosing and managing cancer in the community.
The programme covered 5 key topics in Community Oncology, with a sixth session provided as part of the CPD Unit’s Spring Online School:
- GI cancers
- Lung cancers
- Cancers of unknown primary
- Skin cancers
- Communication skills
- Cancer in geriatrics (delivered as part of the CPD Unit’s Spring Online School)
Each session looked at how to diagnose and manage the cancer in question. Sessions were informal and interactive, and made use of features such as audience polls, Q&As and chats; information was shared between attendees as well as from the expert panel, allowing for valuable practice-based discussion.
- 92 (GI session)
- 100 (Lung session)
- 84 (Skin session)
Further analysis of the statistics indicates that the most popular sessions are GI and skin cancers, and cancers of unknown origin.
We conducted impact surveys 11 weeks after the training completed, and results clearly show that participants were still utilising the learning almost 3 months later. Evidence gathered therefore demonstrates that high quality CPD such as this oncology webinar series can successfully upskill and enhance the practice of primary care teams.
If you would like to find out more about courses and CPD activities in the field of community oncology, palliative and end of life care, or other areas of medicine and health care, please feel free to contact our friendly team:
Continuing Professional Development Unit
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