Patients with breast cancer need access to clinical nurse specialists, say MPs

Parliamentary group debate on England Cancer Strategy highlights ‘gaps in the care and support’
Houses of Parliament

Parliamentary group debate on England Cancer Strategy highlights ‘gaps in the care and support’.

Picture: iStock


MPs have backed calls for breast cancer patients to have access to clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) as well as post-treatment support.

They have also demanded an end to ‘age discrimination’ in cancer care.

Scottish National Party MP Lisa Cameron told the House of Commons she wants everyone with secondary stage of the disease to have access to ‘a specialist nurse with the right skills and expertise’.

She also demanded everyone receives the right support after finishing treatment for primary cancer so that they can live well afterwards.

Dr Cameron, who represents East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, also highlighted findings by the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey publish last July by NHS England, which shows older people are less likely to have access to CNSs.

Politicians from all sides of the House were meeting to debate the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer’s recent report into the progress of the England Cancer Strategy.

The report warns NHS England it will struggle to achieve the objectives set out in the strategy unless immediate corrective action is taken.


Positive changes highlighted include the establishment of 16 cancer alliances and three vanguards since 2015, as well as £200 million of funding for earlier diagnosis and post-diagnosis support.

Coventry North East Labour MP Colleen Fletcher agreed with Dr Cameron and called for a review of the cut off procedure for patients who have received stem cell transplants.

Under the current system, responsibility is transferred after 100 day from NHS England to clinical commissioning groups, leading to ‘fragmentation and gaps in the care and support’, according to Ms Fletcher.

A report by the charity Breast Cancer Now reports that only 21% of organisations in England, Scotland and Wales have one or more CNS dedicated to secondary breast cancer.

Strangford Democratic Unionist Party MP Jim Shannon contrasted cancer care in England with that in Northern Ireland (NI), where he claimed specialist cancer nursing ‘is not keeping pace with demand’.

He added Macmillan has invested £7 million in the service to address this, and revealed that the charity will fund a similar investigation into NI’s own cancer strategy this Spring.


Washington and Sunderland West Labour MP Sharon Hodgson highlighted Macmillan’s 2017 survey of 250 nurses and GPs in primary care across the UK. This found that 52% are not confident the NHS workforce can provide adequate care to cancer patients given the pressures it faces.

‘This is deeply worrying’, she said.

She added: ‘The NHS workforce should be suitably equipped to diagnose, support and care for cancer patients, during and beyond cancer.’

Parliamentary under secretary of state for health Steve Brine agreed politicians are all ‘on the same side’ when it comes to fighting cancer, and paid tribute to all nurses and doctors for their efforts in implementing the strategy over the past two years.

He repeated the pledge that Health Education England will expand the number of CNS by 2021, as set out in the strategy.

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