The University of Limerick Cancer network (ULCaN) was established in 2019 with funding from the Health Research Institute at the University of Limerick in order to build a network between individuals in academia, primary and secondary care and the general public so that cancer services can be coordinated and more effective. The aim of this paper is to outline our experience of engaging with stakeholders to identify gaps in the cancer journey locally.
Four focus group discussions were conducted with patients; their carers; members of the public; and healthcare providers with 2 main aims: 1) to investigate gaps in cancer services; 2) to identify knowledge, attitudes and opportunities available to promote cancer research. The focus groups were audio recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed.
15 themes within the topics of cancer care, palliation, communication, clinical trials, diet and exercise and public and patient involvement in research and advocacy were identified. These include directing people to reliable information and navigating misinformation and stigma linked with cancer, promoting awareness of clinical trials and palliative care services and improving communication when multiple healthcare providers are involved.
The need to make more coherent, efficient and integrated cancer research amongst local stakeholders was evident. Embedding patients and members of the public into ULCaN is an important deliverable for collaborative research.