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Research project: Understanding the role of and communication process engaged in specialist cancer helpline work

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Helplines are a core feature of the contemporary UK health care system. There are over 1,500 helplines in operation, yet little is known about delivering and seeking cancer-related telephone help.

This project aims to map cancer helplines in the UK and understand the communication processes used by callers and helpline agents.

We are working with Macmillan Cancer Support, and other cancer helplines.

The research is being carried out by a team at the University of Southampton, with funding from the National Institute for Health Research, and Dimbleby Cancer Care.


Understanding cancer helplines

This project is composed of 4 studies:

  1. Analyse recorded helpline calls to see how they are used.
  2. Interview callers and agents (call-takers) to ascertain their views on providing/receiving telephone help.
  3. Conduct a survey of helplines to map the UK services and understand their scope and capabilities.
  4. Hold expert panels to obtain feedback, possible solutions to problems highlighted, and approaches to future training.



The results from this research aim to contribute to 2 major outcomes:

  • A comprehensive map of UK cancer helplines will be formulated.
  • Development of training programs for helpline agents, with the aim of improving helpline support services for cancer patients, carers, families, and friends.
    The findings will be made widely available. For further information on this research, please contact the research team:

Project team

Dr Gerry Leydon (Chief Investigator)
Dr Katie Simmons (Research Fellow)
Dr Lisa Danquah (Research Fellow)

Project funder


Related research groups

Complex Healthcare Processes

Conferences and events associated with this project:

Four areas of project study
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