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Exploring experiences of cancer care in Wales: a thematic analysis of free-text responses to the 2013 Wales Cancer Patient Experience Survey (WCPES)
  1. Michael Bracher,
  2. Dame Jessica Corner,
  3. Richard Wagland
    1. Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, UK
    1. Correspondence to Dr Michael Bracher; mb5v07{at}


    Objectives To provide the first systematic analysis of a national (Wales) sample of free-text comments from patients with cancer, to determine emerging themes and insights regarding experiences of cancer care in Wales.

    Design Thematic analysis of free-text data from a population-based survey.

    Setting and participants Adult patients with a confirmed cancer diagnosis treated within a 3-month period during 2012 in the 7 health boards and 1 trust providing cancer care in Wales.

    Main outcome measures Free-text categorised by theme, coded as positive or negative, with ratios. Overarching themes are identified incorporating comment categories.

    Methods 4672 respondents (of n=7352 survey respondents) provided free-text comments. Data were coded using a multistage approach: (1) coding of comments into general categories (eg, nursing, surgery, etc), (2) coding of subcategories within main categories (eg, nursing care, nursing communication, etc), (3) cross-sectional analysis to identify themes cutting across categories, (4) mapping of categories/subcategories to corresponding closed questions in the Wales Cancer Patient Experience Survey (WCPES) data for comparison.

    Results Most free-text respondents (82%, n 3818) provided positive comments about their cancer care, with 49% (n=2313) giving a negative comment (ratio 0.6:1, negative-to-positive). 3172 respondents (67.9% of free-text respondents) provided a comment mapping to 1 of 4 overarching themes: communication (n=1673, 35.8% free-text respondents, a ratio of 1.0:1); waiting during the treatment and/or post-treatment phase (n=923, 19.8%, ratio 1.5:1); staffing and resource levels (n=671, 14.4% ratio 5.3:1); speed and quality of diagnostic care (n=374, 8.0%, ratio 1.5:1). Within these areas, constituent subthemes are discussed.

    Conclusions This study presents specific areas of concern for patients with cancer, and reveals a number of themes present across the cancer journey. While the majority of comments were positive, analysis reveals concerns shared by significant numbers of respondents. Timely communication can help to manage these anxieties, even where delays or difficulties in treatment may be encountered.

    • cancer
    • patient experience
    • free text
    • wales
    • outcomes

    This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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