Career advice

A fine balance

Catherine Oakley says busy health services must avoid focusing on processes at the expense person-centred care

When a cancer taskforce set up by NHS England in January failed to include any nurses in the 17-strong team, the nursing profession reacted with outrage.

After pressure from senior oncology nurses, chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings intervened, leading to UK Oncology Nursing Society (UKONS) president Catherine Oakley being appointed to the team in March.

Dr Oakley, a chemotherapy nurse consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, has almost 30 years’ experience in cancer care. After qualifying in 1987, her first job was on an oncology ward, where she met cancer nurse specialist Gillian Hutchison, one of the first lead cancer nurses in the UK.

‘Gillian showed me the difference nurses can make to the experience of cancer patients through expert knowledge and therapeutic relationships,’ she says. ‘Patient experience before, during and after cancer diagnosis is as important


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