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An ambitious strategy to support people living with and beyond cancer

The Consequences of Cancer Treatment collaborative, a group of senior research-active nurses, say that recognition for the clinical nurse specialist role is welcome

In February, nurse consultant Diana Greenfield used Twitter to highlight the lack of nursing representation on NHS England’s independent cancer task force, charged with developing plans for cancer services in England over the next five years.

It led to the appointment of UK Oncology Nursing Society president Catherine Oakley to the task force. The Consequences of Cancer and its Treatment Collaborative (CCaT), a group of senior research-active nurses of which Professor Greenfield is a member, welcome the task force report published this summer. 

The report sets out an ambitious and far-reaching strategy that appears to take account of the challenges posed by the changing socio-economic context and the increasing number of people likely to be affected by cancer in the UK over the next five years. 

CCaT are particularly encouraged by the report’s emphasis on living with and beyond cancer and implementation of the recovery package.

We believe this is the first time UK health policy has given as much attention to people living with and beyond cancer as to the crucial issues of diagnosis and treatment. The focus on patient experience and using patient-reported outcome measures to evaluate and inform patient-centred services are also welcome.

We are encouraged to see the importance of the clinical nurse specialist role recognised and the value of integrated multidisciplinary working across health, social and tertiary care providers.

Further thought and workforce planning are needed to delineate the roles and competences of different levels of staff. CCaT have started to address this with the publication of a full description of the competences nurses need to promote care for patients living with and beyond cancer.

Further work is required to assess skill and knowledge levels of individuals and teams to identify learning needs. The competence framework could be used to work with education providers so the workforce is prepared and able to meet future care needs.

We also support the recommendation to increase research into rehabilitation and secondary prevention, but also believe there is a need for further evidence on how to prevent, detect and manage the consequences of treatment, late effects and other long-term conditions.

There should not only be a focus on the channelling of research findings into clinical guidelines but also on implementation science, to ensure that findings are implemented in practice.

Thirdly, we endorse the formation of a national cancer team to promote strategic leadership and to re-energise cancer care.

In our view, the disbanding of cancer networks resulted in a loss of intelligence, skills and strategic leadership across regions. The proposed cancer alliances have the potential to deliver the transformational change needed to implement this strategy.

CCaT are optimistic the recommendations will be fully approved by government and we advocate for adequate resources to ensure swift implementation.

About the authors

Theresa Wiseman, Mary Wells, Claire Taylor, Karen Robb, Gillian Knowles, Natalie Doyle, Jo Armes and Diana Greenfield are members of the Consequences of Cancer Treatment  Collaborative (CCaT)

Resources

CCaT have produced three important documents to support nurses working with people living with and beyond cancer:

Macmillan Cancer Support (2013) After Cancer Treatment: A Guide for Professionals.

Macmillan Cancer Support (2014) What to Do After Cancer Treatment Ends: 10 Top Tips. Second edition.

Macmillan Cancer Support (2014) A Competence Framework for Nurses: Caring for Patients Living With and Beyond Cancer

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