Forum focus: influencing policy

Ensuring that the voice of nursing is heard can often be tricky, but is an important part of the RCN's role. 

An important mission at the RCN is to ensure the voice of nursing is represented at all levels of the profession. Influencing policies that affect nurses forms an important strand of the work of the cancer and breast care forum. When members see adverts to join the committee, they may wonder what work might be involved.

Picture: iStock

This week, committee member Nicki Morris presented at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer held at the Houses of Parliament.

Benefitting the patients

The enquiry specifically focused on geographical inequalities and breast cancer, recognising the mixed picture over access to specialist nurses at all parts of the pathway. As a committee, we gathered evidence to support this activity; drawing on the expertise of policy advisors in the RCN and professional lead Ann McMahon, speaking with members who work in the speciality and reviewing all available documents associated with this workforce.

There is significant evidence not only of the benefit to the overall patient experience, but of cost savings brought about through having clinical nurse specialists involved in care. However, their role is being eroded. Posts are being left unfilled, workload is increasing and there is no succession planning for future roles.

This type of representation at parliamentary level gives the forum an opportunity to share their work and influence on behalf of its members. In particular, it provided an opportunity to speak about the partnership with the UK Oncology Nursing Society (UKONS) and Higher Education Authority, led by University of York deputy head of nursing Vanessa Taylor, to produce the Career and Education Framework for Cancer Nursing.

Investment and inequalities

I believe it is vital to speak directly with ministers about the invaluable work of the clinical nurse specialist to ensure a better understanding of their role. Becoming a specialist nurse requires advanced knowledge, skills and education.

We need to make sure those who are making decisions realise that an erosion of their roles will directly have an impact on patients, further creating geographical inequalities. This, in turn, requires investment in the workforce; for those wanting to pursue this as a career pathway as well as existing staff. 

About the author

Susanne Cruickshank is chair of the RCN cancer and breast care forum

This article is for subscribers only