Physiotherapy triage service for people with cancer

Tom Cave, Macmillan AHP cancer rehabilitation project lead, and his team share their highlights from the first year of a pilot project

Physiotherapy triage service for people with cancer


Individuals with cancer experience a plethora of symptoms from diagnosis, through treatment and beyond into survivorship. Scoping of rehabilitation services among individuals with cancer undergoing haematological and oncological treatment highlighted various issues with fatigue, loss of function, pain and breathlessness.  A pilot programme was implemented to address these unmet needs.


In an acute teaching trust in the south west of England, adults with a cancer diagnosis were highlighted by healthcare professionals and referred into the therapy treatment support service (TTSS). Telephone triage carried out by a physiotherapist provided appropriate interventions including fatigue management, musculoskeletal treatment, exercise programmes and breathlessness advice for individuals. The Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy – General (FACT-G) was used as a quality of life outcome measure on initial and final contact.


Fatigue is the primary reason for referral to TTSS and its interventions have shown a positive impact upon quality of life. A more detailed enquiry is required to investigate this service model.

A standardised intervention delivered via a telephone clinic could reach a significant population of those living with and beyond cancer improving cancer-related fatigue symptoms.

Author’s reflections

‘Since starting the project I have been fortunate to present our pilot at a national and an international conference and completed MSc modules. I have been appointed to a Band 8A Pathway lead role as a result of developing my clinical, academic and managerial skills, through project work. It is vital to be generous with your time and data, sharing learning with your peers reaps benefits for integrated patient care as well as project working. My top tip would be to develop the relationships you have within your organisation to discover individuals who can help champion your project. If you have the opportunity to be involved in an innovative project, take it, your professional and personal development will be rewarded.’ 

Top three learning points

  • Many cancer patients under report their symptom burden to health care professionals.
  • Specific interventions relating to cancer-related fatigue management can be provided via a telephone clinic.
  • Establishing and maintaining the awareness of a pilot amongst health care professionals is essential to the overall success of a project.


  • Macmillan Cancer Support provided funding for this pilot programme
  • This work was presented at Physiotherapy UK 2018 and the European Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship Symposium 2018

Further information

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