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Nurses do not speak in 75% of cancer multidisciplinary team meetings, research finds

A study commissioned by Cancer Research UK has found that nurses do not frequently speak in multidisciplinary meetings relating to cancer care.
Multidisciplinary_meetings_tile_iStock.jpg

A study commissioned by Cancer Research UK has found that nurses do not frequently speak in multidisciplinary meetings relating to cancer care

A national review of multidisciplinary team (MDT) meetings in cancer care found that nurses do not speak at all in more than three-quarters of meetings.

A study, commissioned by Cancer Research UK, investigated the effectiveness of weekly MDT meetings, described as the gold standard in terms of patient management in the cancer strategy for England 2015-2020.

The Meeting Patients' Needs report , published in January, responds to challenges facing the MDT meeting, including an increase in the number of patient discussions required.

Contribution ignored

A study commissioned by Cancer Research UK has found that nurses do not frequently speak in multidisciplinary meetings relating to cancer care


Cancer Research UK called multidisciplinary team meetings in cancer care ‘the gold standard’
in terms of patient management. Picture: iStock

A national review of multidisciplinary team (MDT) meetings in cancer care found that nurses do not speak at all in more than three-quarters of meetings.

A study, commissioned by Cancer Research UK, investigated the effectiveness of weekly MDT meetings, described as ‘the gold standard’ in terms of patient management in the cancer strategy for England 2015-2020. 

The Meeting Patients' Needs report, published in January, responds to challenges facing the MDT meeting, including an increase in the number of patient discussions required.

Contribution ignored 

There were 1.4 million patient discussions in MDTs in 2014-5, an increase of around 20% each year since 2011, according to the report.

The complexity of cases being discussed has also grown significantly because of an ageing population with more co-morbidities and more treatment options, according to the report. 

However, the research team found that in 24 MDT meetings across 10 UK sites, including 624 individual patient discussions, nurses remained silent at more than 75% of the meetings.  

The report said that, in some cases, nurses and allied health professionals feel marginalised in the meetings, and that their contribution of patient-centred information, such as the patient’s social and psychological status, is ignored.  

Time constraints 

The mean length of 624 patient discussions observed for the report was 3.2 minutes.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust head of cancer nursing Alison Keen, who leads 55 clinical nurse specialists, said in her experience, nurses felt comfortable speaking up. 

But she added: ‘Clinical nurse specialists are very discerning, and the 75% figure reflects that they are aware of the time constraints.’

She added that clinical nurse specialists will get their patient information across and advocate for the patient but may ‘wait for a more opportune time’, such as after the meeting.

Templates recommended 

RCN professional lead for long-term conditions and end of life care Amanda Cheesley said she was ‘stunned’ by the figure on nurses’ vocal contributions.

She said: ‘If the nurses should be contributing and aren’t, I would suspect it is because there is not enough time, if you are taking three minutes per patient and the meeting has to talk about treatment protocols.’ 

The report recommendations included developing national templates to ensure all relevant information is discussed at meetings, including co-morbidities and the patient’s preferences if known.


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