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New strategy on cancer services raises profile of clinical nurse specialists

A new strategy to improve staffing in NHS cancer services unveiled by Health Education England will create a competency and skills framework for the role of cancer clinical nurse specialist (CNS) and create career pathways for the specialism

A new strategy to improve staffing in NHS cancer services will create a competency and skills framework for the role of cancer clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

The cancer workforce plan drawn up by Health Education England (HEE) promises to create career pathways for the specialism.

The workforce and training body is developing the strategy in response to an NHS recommendation that by 2020 anyone with cancer should have access to a cancer CNS.

Step in right direction

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said the cancer workforce plan was 'a step in the right direction' and that access to nurses could make all the difference to patients and their families.

But Ms Davies warned that one in three specialists could retire in the next five years, rising to 50% in

A new strategy to improve staffing in NHS cancer services will create a competency and skills framework for the role of cancer clinical nurse specialist (CNS).


Picture: iStock

The cancer workforce plan drawn up by Health Education England (HEE) promises to create career pathways for the specialism.

The workforce and training body is developing the strategy in response to an NHS recommendation that by 2020 anyone with cancer should have access to a cancer CNS.

Step in right direction

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said the cancer workforce plan was 'a step in the right direction' and that access to nurses could make all the difference to patients and their families.

But Ms Davies warned that one in three specialists could retire in the next five years, rising to 50% in some types of cancer specialism.

She said: 'The lives of tens of thousands of suspected cancer patients are being put at risk by underfunded and understaffed services.’

Struggle to provide care

She added: 'With their numbers stretched to breaking point, our members tell us they struggle to provide safe care, let alone give patients the level of attention and reassurance they deserve.

'The government must act now to ensure the future supply of nurses.'

HEE says it will draw on data showing the size and location of the specialist cancer nurse workforce when it publishes a document next spring clarifying what action and investment is needed.

Specific skills required

Such data is still being collected by Macmillan Cancer Support, but a 2014 census by the charity found there were 3,088 specialist adult cancer nursing posts, with 124 vacant posts.

The workforce plan states: 'The way in which the nursing profession is currently recorded by the NHS means we know that some 6,000 nurses have been coded to oncology.

'But this does not as yet help us to understand how this maps to the specific skills required to deliver high quality cancer care.'

Investment in cancer workforce

The plan calls for more investment in health professionals in other areas across the cancer workforce over the next three years, including:

  • 200 additional clinical endoscopists to increase diagnostic capacity and allow consultants to spend more time on complex cases.
  • 300 reporting radiographers by 2021 to increase the capacity for earlier diagnosis as part of a national programme to ensure quality and consistency.
  • retention initiatives to produce an extra 746 consultants working in cancer by 2021.

Pragmatic approach

HEE chief executive Ian Cumming said: 'It's good news that more patients are surviving cancer than ever before due to unprecedented advances in our ability to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

'The plan sets out a pragmatic approach to ensure we have sufficient staff with the right skills to embed new tests and treatments, as well as initiatives to retain staff who already deliver much needed care and support to cancer patients and their families up and down the country.

'It places the workforce at the centre of transforming cancer care. We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead.'


Further information 

 

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