A nurse, Gabi, talking to a patient in a home setting.

Stop cancer becoming the forgotten 'C'

The pandemic has laid bare the chronic short staffing that’s been happening in the NHS over many years, and the strain this has had on cancer nurses. Before coronavirus, our nurses were already struggling each day to deliver essential care. Now, an NHS already at crisis point is facing soaring demand.

Cancer nursing on the line 

We’re campaigning for Governments across the UK to invest in enough specialist cancer nurses to provide the vital care people living with cancer need.

Will you join our campaign?

We don’t have enough cancer nurses to deliver vital care

A lady healthcare professional with blonde hair wearing a blue dress.

Cancer nursing on the line: why we need urgent investment across the UK

Our research report sets out that across the UK a total investment of around £170 million is needed. This is to fund the training costs of creating nearly 4,000 specialist cancer nurses required in 2030 to provide the care people need.

Time and time again, people living with cancer tell us that their nurse was a ‘lifeline’. The worsening crisis facing the cancer workforce means there are far too few nurses. This means many people living with cancer are unable to access the critical help they need.

That’s why we’re campaigning for UK Governments to invest in enough cancer nurses to provide the care needed. If they don't, the cost on the NHS, and peoples’ lives, will be much greater.

Read the report

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Our policy calls

  • England

    In England, Macmillan are calling for:

    • A commitment from the UK Government that its Comprehensive Spending Review will invest in a new Cancer Nurse Fund. This will mean providing £124 million to train an extra 3,371 specialist cancer nurses in England, so that people living with cancer can access the personalised care they need.
    • We expect the Government’s commitment to recruit an additional 50,000 nurses to include provision for more specialist cancer nurses. In the long term, the Government must commit to fund the employment costs of the additional specialist cancer nurses that our NHS needs.
    • NHS England and Health Education England should develop and fund a comprehensive support package. This should look to promote specialist cancer nurses’ wellbeing, and provide time and funding to access CPD.
    • Health Education England should urgently implement a careers framework to support more nurses in becoming specialist cancer nurses. This should include the development of structured pathways from general adult nursing into specialist cancer nursing. It should also add a greater focus on cancer care in the undergraduate syllabus.
  • Northern Ireland

    Macmillan is calling for the Northern Ireland Executive to:

    • Deliver a cancer strategy workforce plan that is fully costed and funded. Demand-based modelling of the specialist cancer nurse workforce should take place across the cancer pathway to inform implementation of this plan and build the workforce of the future.
    • Provide recurrent funding in a multi-year settlement from the outset to deliver the workforce elements of NI cancer strategy. This should be supported by progress on the next phase of the specialist cancer nurse expansion programme.
  • Scotland

    Macmillan is calling for the Scottish Government to:

    • Undertake future modelling of the wider cancer workforce that will be required to meet rising demand as well as more complex needs.
    • Use this cancer workforce modelling to deliver a costed implementation plan which has a focus on skills mix and addresses retention as well as recruitment. This should include investing £30.8 million in Scotland to train the specialist cancer nurses that our research demonstrates are needed by 2030.
  • Wales

    In Wales, Macmillan are calling for:

    • Welsh Government to provide targeted investment to meet future specialist nursing workforce demands highlighted through our research.
    • Health boards and trusts in Wales to guarantee time and ringfenced funding for nurses to access Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunities. This includes continuing strategic leadership development once a nurse has reached a specialist level.
    • A commitment from Welsh Government to direct Health Education and Improvement Wales to develop a clear plan for the cancer workforce.
    • Welsh Government and Health Education and Improvement Wales to create and fund an optimised career development pathway for general adult nurses to develop into clinical nurse specialists.
    • Welsh Government to publish regular figures on the cancer nursing workforce including the size of the workforce and vacancy rates by nursing band, cancer type and other characteristics.