21 October 2014
But charity warns “this is no time for complacency” as vital workforce set to decline
The number of specialist adult cancer nurses  has reached an all time high, with over 3,000 posts in the NHS, a new census of cancer nurses in England reveals today.
For the first time Macmillan Cancer Support has funded the complete census of the cancer nurse population. It shows that in the last three years alone 283 more specialist cancer nurses are now working in hospitals, ensuring people with cancer feel supported, informed and have a better experience going through treatment.
Whilst in recent years the cancer nurse workforce has kept pace with the rapid growth in the number of people diagnosed with cancer, the charity warns there is still work to do. Research published last month shows that around one in 10 people with cancer in England still aren’t assigned a cancer nurse.
The census, which collected data from almost all (97%) hospitals in the country, highlights the crucial role that Macmillan Cancer Support has played in supporting cancer nurses, as four fifths (79%) of new posts since 2011 are Macmillan nurses.
However, the report also warns that much more needs to be done to ensure that no one faces cancer alone. Financial strain on the NHS means it is not increasing the number of NHS cancer nurses fast enough, so that a greater proportion of cancer nurses are now Macmillan nurses, compared to in 2011.
On top of this, the census reveals worrying trends about the future of the ageing NHS cancer workforce. One in three nurses are aged 50 or over which means many of these will be approaching retirement in the next five to 10 years. For some cancers in certain parts of the country this rises to half of all cancer nurses.
The role was pioneered by Macmillan in the 1970s to provide specialist nursing support to people affected by cancer. The charity then campaigned for the NHS to take up the posts to ensure that as many as possible had access to this vital service. Today there is a mix of NHS funded and Macmillan funded cancer nurses working in NHS hospitals across England.
Luke Bennett, 32 from Essex, diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2007 says:
“Family are great, but you need that extra level of knowledge. When I was being treated for bowel cancer I had two possible dates for my chemo. If my Macmillan nurse Theresa hadn’t helped me decide to take the earlier one, I might not be here today. She was honest when I needed someone to be honest. I’m massively grateful.”
Linda Ridden, 58, from Devon, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2013:
“I was never assigned a nurse. My diagnosis left me feeling totally isolated, and to not have any support was really difficult. There were some specialist nurses, but they worked shifts and I never got to know any of them. It would have made a huge difference to have been able to build up a relationship with one of them.”
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support says:
“It is really encouraging that the number of specialist cancer nurses in England is keeping pace with the rapidly growing numbers of people diagnosed with cancer, but not so good that ten percent of cancer patients don't have a specialist nurse.
“Research shows that having access to one of these cancer nurses is the one most important factor in making sure patients feel treated as human beings, supported and engaged in their care, rather than just a set of symptoms.
“But this is no time for complacency. The number of people living with cancer will double from two to four million by 20307 and many of these people will not just have cancer but a number of complex conditions. At the same time, we are faced with an ageing workforce with worrying numbers soon to retire.
“It will be a huge challenge for charities, decision makers in the NHS and politicians alike to make sure that the NHS cancer workforce is equipped, supported and flexible enough to manage this daunting change.”
Macmillan Cancer Support is calling on health and social care commissioners and providers in England to work with Macmillan to address the challenges identified by this census.
If you’re caring for someone with cancer and need information or support, call 0808 808 00 00 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk/carers
For further information, please contact:
Charlotte Morris, Media and PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 091 2467 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
 The census included hospital-based specialist cancer nurses working in adult cancer care. These nurses treat, support and manage the health concerns of adult cancer patients and work to promote the health and wellbeing of the patients they care for. The census only included Agenda for Change bands 5 to 9 and included vacant posts. The census excluded nurses who specialise in chemotherapy, radiotherapy, palliative care, pain management, paediatrics, teenagers and young adults or non-patient facing roles and those who work ‘as and when required’, e.g. bank and agency staff. The job title Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS), is a sub group of specialist cancer nurses and make up 80% of the specialist cancer nurses population. In this press release, any reference to cancer nurses is talking about specialist adult cancer nurses in terms of whole time equivalents (full time posts) in adult cancer care.
 Macmillan Cancer Support. Specialist adult cancer nurses in England. A census of the specialist adult cancer nursing workforce in the UK, 2014,
 This is the first census that Macmillan has funded. The first censuses were developed and led by the cancer network nurse director and colleagues, later census were funded by the National Cancer Action Team (NCAT). Further details of the history of the census are given in the new report.
 National Cancer Action Team. Quality in Nursing - Clinical Nurse Specialists in Cancer Care: Provision, Proportion and Performance. A census of the cancer specialist nurse workforce in England 2001, http://www.cfwi.org.uk/2014-adult-cancer-specialist-nurse-census/at_download/attachment4
 NHS England. Cancer Patient Experience Survey 2014 http://www.quality-health.co.uk/resources/surveys/national-cancer-experience-survey/2014-national-cancer-patient-experience-survey/2014-national-cancer-patient-experience-survey-national-reports/688-2013-national-cancer-patient-experience-survey-national-report-pdf/file (Accessed October 2014)
 Based on the 80% of nurses where the age was known.
 Maddams J, Utley M, Møller H. Projections of cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom, 2010-2040. Br J Cancer 2012; 107: 1195-1202.
About Macmillan Cancer Support
When you have cancer, you don’t just worry about what will happen to your body, you worry about what will happen to your life. Whether it’s concerns about who you can talk to, planning for the extra costs or what to do about work, at Macmillan we understand how a cancer diagnosis can take over everything.
That’s why we’re here. We provide support that helps people take back control of their lives. But right now, we can’t reach everyone who needs us. We need your help to make sure that people affected by cancer get the support they need to face the toughest fight of their life. No one should face cancer alone, and with your support no one will.
To get involved, call 0300 1000 200 today. And please remember, we’re here for you too. If you’d like support, information or just to chat, call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk