Transformation Partners in Health and Care > News > Exploring the psychological impact of the cancer diagnostic pathway

Transforming Cancer Services is delighted to be presenting at the British Psychosocial Oncology Society (BPOS) Conference in March.

Our presentation will focus on the work we completed in 2022 on behalf of the North Central London (NCL) Integrated Care Board (ICB) and in collaboration with the NCL Cancer Alliance addressing the psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis on patient wellbeing.

Background to the project

NCL ICB originally approached Transforming Cancer Services to explore the psychological impact of the cancer diagnostics pathway on a pan-London level. The initial project scope surrounded cancer waits and delays, factoring in psychological harm alongside clinical harm reviews to ensure that people received the right support as quickly as possible. However, following an initial scan of the literature and undertaking focus groups with cancer psychologists, the scope was changed to encompass all those on a two week wait referral with the aim of minimising distress and promoting adjustment for all on the diagnostic pathway, whether a cancer diagnosis is identified or not.

The project takes into account the pan-London cancer psycho-social integrated pathway (TCST, 2020) – which starts from the point of cancer diagnosis onwards.

Progress so far

So far, we’ve delivered 12 focus groups, a half day workshop and a scan of the literature identifying five key themes about the psychological impact of the cancer diagnostic pathway. These are:

  • Reactions to the terminology of “psychological harm” and “distress”
  • Family dynamics during the diagnostic phase
  • System issues contributing to distress/harm
  • Measuring/detecting harm and distress in acute care
  • Measuring/detecting harm and distress in Urgent Suspected Cancer / 2 Week Wait referrals

We are now engaging with stakeholders involved in the original focus groups and workshop session as well as a range of pan-London cancer workforce and programme groups through a survey and events programme. Outcomes from this will feed into future work.

Recommendations and next steps from the project will be presented to the NCL Cancer Board on 14 March.

For more information on the psychological harm work, please contact