Survey reveals mental and physical impact of the cancer nurse shortage
Patients tell Macmillan of unmanageable workloads and unmet needs, such as anxiety and pain
Patients tell Macmillan of unmanageable staff workloads and unmet needs, such as depression, anxiety and pain
A lack of cancer nurses is affecting the mental and physical health needs of patients, a new survey from charity Macmillan Cancer Support suggests.
The RCN said the findings were ‘heartbreaking’ for the nursing profession, while Macmillan joined calls for UK governments to address the nurse staffing crisis urgently.
Respondents say their nurses have ‘unmanageable workloads’
The survey gathered responses from 6,905 patients. More than two thirds (68%) of those recently diagnosed with or treated for cancer said they were not getting the support they need.
One in five people (19%) said the healthcare professionals caring for them had unmanageable workloads. These patients were around a third more likely than others to have unaddressed physical and emotional needs, such as depression, anxiety, pain and trouble sleeping.
Sarah Mills, who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2018, told Macmillan her clinical nurse specialist was ‘always insanely overloaded’.
'This is not the fault of any radiographer, nurse or administrator – they are just human beings who can only fit so much into a certain number of hours,’ she said.
‘Shielding patients from a chronic workforce shortage’
RCN interim director of nursing policy and practice Bronagh Scott described the survey’s findings as tragic.
‘This will break the heart of every nurse who goes into the profession to provide top-quality, person-centred care, rather than shield patients from the worst effects of a chronic workforce shortage,’ she said.
Macmillan chief executive Lynda Thomas said: ‘We’re calling on [government] to provide fully-funded plans to grow and sustain the health and care workforce without delay.’
A new report from Together for Short Lives (TSL), a charity supporting children with life-limiting conditions, also called on ministers to take action to address the children’s palliative care workforce crisis.
Denied care because of a shortage of children’s nurses
Together for Short Lives says that, on average, children’s hospices report a vacancy rate of 12.2%.
RCN director for England Patricia Marquis said families experiencing the trauma of these circumstances deserved to have enough nurses to care for their children.
‘But the cold, hard reality is that children suffering from life-limiting conditions or approaching the end of their lives are being denied care because of a shortage of children’s nurses,’ she said.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said cancer patients deserved ‘the best possible care’ and a £33.9 billion investment in the NHS would help in recruiting the staff the service needs. ‘Our Interim NHS People Plan has set out immediate actions to reduce vacancies.’
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