Impact of COVID-19 on cancer service delivery: Results from an international survey of oncology clinicians

Grace Chazan, Fanny Franchini, Marliese Alexander, Susana Banerjee, Linda Mileshkin, Prunella Blinman, Rob Zielinski, Deme Karikios, Nick Pavlakis, Solange Peters, Florian Lordick, David Ball, Gavin Wright, Maarten Ijzerman, Benjamin Solomon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objectives: To report clinician-perceived changes to cancer service delivery in response to COVID-19. Design: Multidisciplinary Australasian cancer clinician survey in collaboration with the European Society of Medical Oncology. Setting: Between May and June 2020 clinicians from 70 countries were surveyed; majority from Europe (n=196; 39%) with 1846 COVID-19 cases per million people, Australia (AUS)/New Zealand (NZ) (n=188; 38%) with 267/236 per million and Asia (n=75; 15%) with 121 per million at time of survey distribution. Participants Medical oncologists (n=372; 74%), radiation oncologists (n=91; 18%) and surgical oncologists (n=38; 8%). Results: Eighty-nine per cent of clinicians reported altering clinical practices; more commonly among those with versus without patients diagnosed with COVID-19 (n=142; 93% vs n=225; 86%, p=0.03) but regardless of community transmission levels (p=0.26). More European clinicians (n=111; 66.1%) had treated patients diagnosed with COVID-19 compared with Asia (n=20; 27.8%) and AUS/NZ (n=8; 4.8%), p<0.001. Many clinicians (n=307; 71.4%) reported concerns that reduced access to standard treatments during the pandemic would negatively impact patient survival. The reported proportion of consultations using telehealth increased by 7.7-fold, with 25.1% (n=108) of clinicians concerned that patient survival would be worse due to this increase. Clinicians reviewed a median of 10 fewer outpatients/week (including non-face to face) compared with prior to the pandemic, translating to 5010 fewer specialist oncology visits per week among the surveyed group. Mental health was negatively impacted for 52.6% (n=190) of clinicians. Conclusion: Clinicians reported widespread changes to oncology services, in regions of both high and low COVID-19 case numbers. Clinician concerns of potential negative impacts on patient outcomes warrant objective assessment, with system and policy implications for healthcare delivery at large.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001090
Number of pages8
JournalESMO Open
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • oncology
  • service delivery


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