We need the right mix of skills and effective working across teams and care settings to better meet the changing needs of people affected by cancer.

The cancer workforce is struggling to meet current requirements, let alone prepare for increasing future demand.

Our latest report, From the Frontline: workforce pressures in the NHS [PDF] sets out the challenges currently facing NHS staff in their own words. Drawing on new research conducted with:

  • GPs and nurses in primary care
  • Macmillan professionals
  • Macmillan GPs

The report looks both at current workforce pressures and the views of staff on how they can be solved.

The way forward

  • We want to see a strategic approach to workforce planning, training and education; so that everyone with cancer has the highest standard of coordinated care and support during and after treatment.
  • We need the right mix of skills and effective working across teams and care settings to better meet the needs of people affected by cancer.

Our report, Thinking Differently: Macmillan’s vision for the future cancer workforce [PDF] sets out some of the ways in which we believe the workforce can be strengthened.

This includes:

  • ensuring that the right training and support is available for people to move into specialist cancer roles
  • improving the mix of skills in cancer care teams, and
  • improving the skills and confidence and of existing staff.


The urgent need to think strategically about how the cancer workforce is planned and managed long term, was recognised in the Cancer Strategy for England when it called for ‘the development of a vision for the future shape and skills mix of the workforce required to deliver a modern, holistic patient-centred cancer service’. This was then followed by a commitment to delivering the review in the Cancer Strategy implementation plan published by the NHS in May 2016.

In order to truly transform the cancer workforce so that it is fit for the future, national leadership and a strategic vision for the future cancer workforce is needed. Health Education England has a critical role to play in leading the development of this strategic vision for the cancer workforce.

Our report, ‘Thinking differently: Macmillan’s vision for the future cancer workforce in England’ uses examples of projects and programmes we have led or been involved in to illustrate the need to think differently about the workforce. It also makes recommendations at both a national and local level, recognising that both are vital to achieving lasting and sustainable change.



In Scotland Macmillan successfully lobbied for the new cancer plan in March 2016 to have workforce issues at its heart. The Plan commits to workforce planning that ensures 'that every person with cancer in Scotland who needs it has access to a specialist nurse during their care and treatment' and Macmillan will campaign over the next five years to make that a reality.

The Plan also commits to 'Invest £9 million over 5 years to support access to health and social care services during and after treatment, via for example, Link Workers to provide support in the most deprived communities and initiatives such as Macmillan’s Improving the Cancer Journey' – we know that often simple advice and signposting can radically alter a cancer patient’s experience of getting the help they need or not. Link Workers can be at the heart of supporting all patients on their journey.


Wales / Cymru

The Wales Cancer Patient experience survey, demonstrated the improved outcomes experienced by patients who had a Specialist Cancer Nurse as their key worker. We want all patients in Wales to have a Specialist Cancer Nurse as their key worker, who have oversight of a person’s care, working as part of a wider multi-disciplinary team.

Our Specialist Adult Cancer Nurse census sets the scene in terms of challenges for this element of the workforce both now and in the future.


Dangosodd Arolwg profiad Cleifion Canser Cymru, y canlyniadau gwell y mae cleifion oedd â Nyrs Arbenigol Canser fel gweithiwr allweddol wedi eu profi. Rydym eisiau i bob claf yng Nghymru gael Nyrs Arbenigol Canser fel gweithiwr allweddol, sydd yn goruchwylio gofal person, gan weithio fel rhan o dîm amlddisgyblaethol ehangach.

Mae ein cyfrifiad o Nyrs Arbenigol Canser i Oedolion yn dangos yr heriau ar gyfer yr elfen hon o’r gweithlu nawr ac i’r dyfodol.


Northern Ireland

We are campaigning for gaps in the specialist cancer workforce to be addressed. Northern Ireland currently has the lowest provision of Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) in the UK. 

In the 2016 Assembly election we called for all political parties to commit to ensuring equal access to a CNS for everyone diagnosed with cancer. An investment of £11 million, including a £7 million contribution from Macmillan, was announced in March 2016 to fund around 60 CNS and Support Worker posts over the next six years.


Key reports

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