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“Txt-netting” – using text messages to safety-net patients with low risk cancer symptoms in GP primary care

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  • Full or part time
    Prof P Sasieni
    Dr J Waller
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We have two studentships available across a possible four projects, which includes this project. The other three are available to view on Find a PHD or at www.kcl.ac.uk/health/study/studentships/div-studentships/cps/cps-studentship-projects

Around 90% of cancers present initially to their GP but the nonspecific nature of cancer symptoms often precludes early diagnosis. Safety-netting is an important diagnostic strategy for managing patients with potential cancer symptoms. Asking patients to return if symptoms persist is a common approach, but relies on patients to re-appraise their symptoms and to make follow-up appointments. Furthermore, worry about wasting the doctor’s time and not wanting to bother the doctor are major help-seeking barriers in the UK. Text messages could be a simple, effective, and low-cost way of improving safety netting by acting as a nudge to remind patients to come back and to provide reassurance that the doctor wants to see them (txt-netting).

Recently, we conducted focus groups with GPs to assess their views and preferences for txt-netting. We found that GPs were amenable to txt-netting, realising its potential value, but also had some concerns about possible workload implications, patient confidentiality and data security (BJGP 2018: https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp18X695741). We are planning to explore this further by implementing txt-netting in primary care, to assess feasibility and acceptability in a small number of GP practices. Based on results from this work, we will design and pilot a clinical trial to rigorously evaluate the potential for txt-netting. As part of this we will examine patient preferences for text-message content and acceptability of txt-netting. Separate funding will be sought for a large trial, but the PhD will not be dependent on obtaining such funding. With the increasing use of technology in healthcare, the student could also explore additional ways in which technology can be harnessed to improve cancer safety-netting.

Funding Notes

£21,000 annually. The Studentship is open to UK & EU candidates.



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