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Cancer and the family: assessment, communication and brief interventions—the development of an educational programme for healthcare professionals when a parent has cancer
  1. Lucy Grant1,
  2. Amrit Sangha2,
  3. Sara Lister1 and
  4. Theresa Wiseman2
  1. 1Department of Pastoral and Psychological Care, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Health Service Research, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lucy Grant, Clinical Health Psychology Service, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, 25 Erleigh Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5LR, UK; lucy.grant{at}


Objective This study developed and piloted an educational intervention to support healthcare professionals (HCPs) to provide supportive care for families when a parent has cancer.

Methods Programme development followed the Medical Research Council (MRC) framework, beginning with examination of theory and research, and consultation with experts. The programme content incorporated attachment theory, child development and family systems theory. It was piloted thrice with HCPs from a cancer centre. The evaluation involved a questionnaire, comprising open-ended questions, completed before and after the programme. Data from the questionnaire were analysed using framework analysis.

Results 31 HCPs from varying disciplines participated. The programme was evaluated positively by participants. Before the programme, participants had significant concerns about their professional competence, which included: managing their own emotions; a perceived sensitivity around raising child and family matters with patients and a lack of specialist experience, skills and knowledge. After completing the programme, participants reported greater understanding and knowledge, increased confidence to approach patients about family matters, greater skill to initiate conversations and explore family concerns and guiding parent–child communication according to the child's level of understanding, and an increased engagement and resilience for caring for parents with cancer.

Significance of the results Supporting HCPs to provide family-centred care is likely to reduce psychological difficulties in families where a parent has cancer. Further work is planned to disseminate the programme, evaluate the transfer of skills into practice, assess how HCPs manage the emotional demands of providing supportive care over time, and consider on-going professional support for HCPs.

  • Cancer
  • Communication
  • Parent
  • Family
  • Supportive care

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  • Twitter Follow Theresa Wiseman at @gtwiseman

  • Contributors LG led the project, developed and delivered the programme, conducted analysis, devised the framework with TW, wrote the report and took overall responsibility for the manuscript. AS assisted with the report and drafting of the manuscript. SL supported the delivery of the programme and reviewed the manuscript. TW supervised the project and analysis, devised the framework and contributed to the analysis and drafting of the manuscript.

  • Funding Research was supported by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity who were not involved in any part of the work.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.