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Cancer charity warns of potential shortfall of 7,000 clinical nurse specialists

Macmillan Cancer Support has called for ambitious action from Health Education England to plug workforce gaps and reduce pressures on existing clinical nurse specialists.
Cancer nurse specialist

Macmillan Cancer Support has called for ambitious action from Health Education England (HEE) to plug workforce gaps and reduce pressures on existing clinical nurse specialists

In its Thinking Differently report, published today, Macmillan Cancer Support highlights work pressures placed on clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) and said many reported a rise in colleagues leaving the profession.

CNSs told the charity there is a growing tendency not to replace these roles or to replace them with temporary contracts.

Shortfall

The charity estimated a shortfall of 7,000 CNSs in the UK by 2030 as cancer survival rates grow.

Previous analysis by Macmillan estimated that there was a gap of 3,400 CNSs across the UK.

Macmillan programme lead for treatment and recovery

Macmillan Cancer Support has called for ambitious action from Health Education England (HEE) to plug workforce gaps and reduce pressures on existing clinical nurse specialists

Cancer nurse specialist
Macmillan Cancer Support has warned of a potential 7,000 shortfall of clinical nurse
specialists in the UK by 2030. Picture: SPL

In its Thinking Differently report, published today, Macmillan Cancer Support highlights work pressures placed on clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) and said many reported a rise in colleagues leaving the profession.

CNSs told the charity there is a growing tendency not to replace these roles or to replace them with temporary contracts.

Shortfall

The charity estimated a shortfall of 7,000 CNSs in the UK by 2030 as cancer survival rates grow. 

Previous analysis by Macmillan estimated that there was a gap of 3,400 CNSs across the UK.

Macmillan programme lead for treatment and recovery Dany Bell, a registered nurse, said CNSs are under ‘immense pressure’.

She said: ‘There has never been any guidance about what is an appropriate case load for a CNS. 

‘People are living longer and they have more complex needs and so the CNSs are dealing with more complex, growing case loads without appropriate support and they are working longer hours.’

Ambitious approach

A Macmillan CNS said time is ‘increasingly stretched’ and taken up with non-specialists tasks because CNSs ‘can rely less and less on admin and general colleagues as they are increasingly disheartened and overwhelmed’. 

Among other recommendations, the charity said HEE must consider a more ambitious approach, starting with a thorough review of the cancer workforce. 

Without HEE working with other national bodies, such as the Department of Health and NHS England, on a clear long-term plan, Macmillan said the situation could deteriorate rapidly.

HEE director of planning and strategy Rob Smith said it is developing a workforce strategy to respond to the 2015-2020 cancer taskforce review recommendations and to any challenges raised by local cancer alliances. 

He said: ‘This approach is essential in order that solutions to workforce challenges are sustainable and patients get the right care at the right time in the right place.’


Further information

Macmillan 'Thinking differently' report


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