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Some healthcare professionals lack skills in caring for older people with cancer, says report

A report commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support has called for a basic education framework to improve the knowledge of healthcare professionals working with older people with cancer.

A report commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support has called for a basic education framework to improve the knowledge of healthcare professionals working with older people with cancer


The report recommended the development of a national education and training
framework for healthcare professionals working with older people. Picture: iStock

Macmillan Cancer Support’s investigation into the UK’s cancer workforce revealed that some healthcare professionals lack confidence, knowledge and skills in caring for older people with cancer.

The report, carried out by an expert reference group, including clinical nurse specialists and nurse consultants, revealed deficits across the workforce in education and training. 

The nursing education curricula must reflect the skills needed to care for an older population, the group said. 

It found there are also weaknesses in the training of the existing workforce, including in communication skills and the assessment of older people.

‘Big issue’

Nearly two thirds of cancer diagnoses in the UK occur in people aged 65 and over, and one third in the over-75s, according to the National Cancer Intelligence Network.  

RCN professional lead for long-term conditions and end of life care Amanda Cheesley said: ‘There is a big issue around education and training in terms of the understanding of the ageing process, of frailty – even of the demographic itself.’

She added that older patients must be provided with the same treatment options as other patients.

The report recommended the development of a basic national education and training framework for nurses and other healthcare professionals working with older people, regardless of speciality. 

New framework 

All pre-registration curricula for nurses training to work with adults should take this framework into account, it said, and highlighted the development of a curriculum focused on older people and cancer by the European Oncology Nursing Society.

Health Education England (HEE) was part of the reference group. 

A HEE spokesperson said it will be working with local cancer alliances which aim to improve cancer outcomes in their area.


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