Tuesday 28th April 2015
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Spring 2015
Macmillan has commissioned the first UK-wide census of specialist adult cancer nurses
At the time of writing, results are in for England, Northern Ireland and Wales, with Scotland to follow soon.
The main aim of the census is to inform commissioners and workforce planners, and to make them aware of potential issues. As well as gaining a clear picture of the number and needs of people living with cancer, it is vital that we have a clear understanding of the provision of healthcare professionals to support them.
Encouragingly, the number of cancer clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) has increased by 10% since the last census in England in 2011, keeping pace with the growth in the number of people diagnosed with cancer each year. The proportion of nurses supported by Macmillan has also increased and now stands at 38% of the total in England.
However, many nurses will be approaching retirement in the next five to ten years, and nurses are spread much more thinly in some areas.
Cancer CNS numbers in Northern Ireland are failing to keep pace with the growing need from people with cancer. The Northern Ireland Cancer Services Framework states that everyone should be assessed by a cancer CNS at the time of their cancer diagnosis and at the end of each stage of treatment. However, the workforce has grown by only 2% since 2011.
Over a fifth (21%) of specialist cancer CNSs in Wales are Macmillan postholders. The vacancy rate for cancer CNSs appears to be below average for health and social care roles. However, nearly half of CNSs were reported as being age 50 or over, with no postholders under 30, highlighting the need for careful workforce succession planning.
How are we acting on our findings?
Across the UK, Macmillan’s plans to act on its findings include the following:
- Identifying how best to optimise the specialist adult cancer nurse workforce, building on the success of our One-to-One Support pilots – where support workers have been demonstrated to release CNS time for more complex care.
- Re-establishing a role development programme that will support nurses wishing to establish themselves as specialists in cancer care.
- Developing new roles that will support people with complex care coordination at key points in their care pathway.
- Mapping interventions that specialist nurses offer across different cancer patient pathways to determine best practice.
- Continuing the specialist adult cancer nursing census every two years.
Read the reports online.
1. Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. Cancer Services Framework. 2009