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Myeloma UK launches study to uncover geographical inequalities in healthcare access

Research news // 19th November 2021

Myeloma UK has announced the launch of a new research project, the Myeloma Geographical Equalities Audit, to investigate whether a patient’s geographic location impacts their access to healthcare and outcomes.

The important 18-month research project led by Dr Charlene McShane will examine the healthcare and support services available for myeloma patients.

The researchers will start by using anonymised patient data from national cancer registries to look at regional or district variation in the number of patients living with myeloma, the number of newly diagnosed patients, and the outcomes of their myeloma treatment.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, researchers will determine the number of healthcare locations available and identify the type and number of specialist services, such as physiotherapy, or counselling, patients have access to. From this data, the researchers hope to identify areas where support services are poor and define the changes needed to give every myeloma patient access to the best possible treatment.

The study will also assess geographical equality by capturing patients’ views from online surveys. This will help to understand regional barriers to accessing myeloma services and the impact on quality of life for patients and their families, such as the distance or cost of travelling to an appointment.

Collecting this data will guide plans to extend this assessment to the whole of the UK in the future.

Dr Charlene McShane, Lecturer in Cancer Epidemiology at Queen’s University Belfast, said:

“Myeloma patients across the UK may experience differences in their diagnosis, treatment and care based on where they live, rather than their clinical need. These unwarranted variations can negatively impact both the experiences and outcomes of patients. Good data on myeloma patient outcomes and experience can help us identify geographical inequalities, paving the way to campaign for changes.

We hope the findings of this study will contribute to improved patient outcomes and experience by identifying areas associated with poorer outcomes and highlighting areas needing greater support. Our goal is a future where all myeloma patients in the UK have equal access to care.”

Sarah McDonald, Director of Research at Myeloma UK said:

“Myeloma UK is committed to ensuring equal access to the highest standards of treatment and care for patients, regardless of where they live. This project will provide academic rigour and a research focus on the provision of myeloma healthcare services. This will enable us to push for the best care across the UK.”

This project is supported by funding from Sanofi Genzyme and Takeda UK Ltd.