Embracing the brave new world

NHS England’s new cancer plan is a chance to shape care delivery, says Richard Henry.

NHS England’s new cancer plan is a chance to shape care delivery, says Richard Henry.

There are few direct references to nursing in NHS England’s new cancer plan, but cancer nurses should welcome its timely publication.

It explains how the recommendations from last year’s independent cancer taskforce strategy will be implemented, such as ensuring that fewer people get preventable cancers, and more people survive for longer after diagnosis, have a positive experience of care and support, and have a better quality of life long-term.

While these are laudable goals, reaching them will depend on the ability of NHS England to put them into operation.

The design of six work streams allows each of the taskforce’s 96 recommendations to be included in a programme of work. Such a formidable undertaking will require a unified approach from all healthcare organisations at all levels in England.

There are a number of priorities, including enhancing cancer prevention and public health, achieving early diagnosis, ensuring more effective support for those living with and beyond cancer, and strengthening commissioning, provision and accountability.

Nursing is well placed to contribute to this agenda, given its proven track record of achievement in many of the areas to be addressed. One work stream is dedicated to living with and beyond cancer, an area in which the Cancer Nursing Partnership has already been active in support of implementing the recovery package.

Similarly, the work stream focusing on patient experience acknowledges that access to a clinical nurse specialist is crucial in optimising patients’ experience. Many of the recommendations refer directly to the interaction between the healthcare professional and the person with cancer. The experience of nurses, with our emphasis on person-centred care, will be invaluable.

Much of the activity to implement the taskforce recommendations will concern the commissioning, organisation and delivery of cancer services at national and local level.

Improved efficiency

Importantly, the cancer plan recognises the need for investment, although this will have to be underpinned by the effectiveness, efficiency and productivity that can be realised through improved approaches to planning.

Real advances can only be achieved with high levels of co-operation between healthcare organisations, including the professions. Nurses can make a significant contribution here, given our experience in clinical commissioning groups, knowledge of the quality agenda, as well as safeguarding and governance, team working skills and understanding of the patient’s perspective.

Cancer nurses should embrace this brave new world. There is much potential for developing and extending our roles and for influencing factors that shape the delivery of services.

However, we know that implementing a programme of change requires more than just identifying objectives and gaining popular approval. It depends on effective leadership at every level, the agreement of achievable goals matched by adequate resources and clear communication.

The plan to implement the taskforce recommendations should be praised for its dynamism, ambition and forthrightness. But if it is to be a success, cancer nursing needs to be at the forefront.

About the author

Richard Henry is lecturer in cancer nursing at Queen’s University Belfast and UKONS president-elect.


Independent Cancer Taskforce (2015) Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015-2020. (Last accessed: June 3 2016).

NHS England (2016) Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: Taking the Strategy Forward. (Last accessed: June 3 2016.)

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