Research Article

Randomised controlled trial of effects of coordinating care for terminally ill cancer patients.

BMJ 1992; 305 doi: (Published 28 November 1992) Cite this as: BMJ 1992;305:1317
  1. J. M. Addington-Hall,
  2. L. D. MacDonald,
  3. H. R. Anderson,
  4. J. Chamberlain,
  5. P. Freeling,
  6. J. M. Bland,
  7. J. Raftery
  1. Department of Public Health Sciences, St George's Hospital Medical School, University of London.


    OBJECTIVES--To measure effects on terminally ill cancer patients and their families of coordinating the services available within the NHS and from local authorities and the voluntary sector. DESIGN--Randomised controlled trial. SETTING--Inner London health district. PATIENTS--Cancer patients were routinely notified from 1987 to 1990. 554 patients expected to survive less than one year entered the trial and were randomly allocated to a coordination or a control group. INTERVENTION--All patients received routinely available services. Coordination group patients received the assistance of two nurse coordinators, whose role was to ensure that patients received appropriate and well coordinated services, tailored to their individual needs and circumstances. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Patients and carers were interviewed at home on entry to the trial and at intervals until death. Interviews after bereavement were also conducted. Outcome measures included the presence and severity of physical symptoms, psychiatric morbidity, use of and satisfaction with services, and carers' problems. Results from the baseline interview, the interview closest to death, and the interview after bereavement were analysed. RESULTS--Few differences between groups were significant. Coordination group patients were less likely to suffer from vomiting, were more likely to report effective treatment for it, and less likely to be concerned about having an itchy skin. Their carers were more likely to report that in the last week of life the patient had had a cough and had had effective treatment for constipation, and they were less likely to rate the patient's difficulty swallowing as severe or to report effective treatment for anxiety. Coordination group patients were more likely to have seen a chiropodist and their carers were more likely to contact a specialist nurse in a night time emergency. These carers were less likely to feel angry about the death of the patient. CONCLUSIONS--This coordinating service made little difference to patient or family outcomes, perhaps because the service did not have a budget with which it could obtain services or because the professional skills of the nurse-coordinators may have conflicted with the requirements of the coordinating role.