Stop cancer becoming the Forgotten 'C'

The pandemic has laid bare and worsened the chronic short staffing strain of many years 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.

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

This is an acutely challenging time for the NHS and for cancer care. NHS professionals are working tirelessly, but with a huge backlog and added winter pressures, many people living with cancer are experiencing disruption to their care.

Since the start of the pandemic, Macmillan has been campaigning for UK Governments to make sure cancer does not become the forgotten 'C'. Now we are asking campaigners to join us to show the strength of support for urgent investment in cancer nurses across the UK.

Our research report, Cancer Nursing on the Line (PDF), sets out that across the UK a total investment of around £170 million is needed to fund the training costs of creating nearly 4000 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, and 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 — or the cost on the NHS, and peoples’ lives, will be much greater.

Hear from a cancer nurse specialist and a person living with cancer about why we need urgent investment across the UK.

Get the support you need

  • Despite current pressures on the NHS, it is still there for you. If you’re worried about a symptom that could be cancer, still contact your GP.
  • If you are concerned about changes or disruption to your treatment, or have any questions about cancer, you can contact Macmillan’s specially trained nurses for free by calling its Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.
  • We have the latest guidance for cancer and coronavirus available for people living with cancer, Macmillan supporters and our volunteers.
  • Our Online Community continues to provide invaluable emotional and peer support.
  • You can sign up for a Telephone Buddy for friendly conversation.
  • We have information if you are supporting someone with cancer.
  • Have you been diagnosed with cancer? Sign up for email support after a cancer diagnosis.


Stop the spread of coronavirus

Follow Government guidance in your area and:

  • Keep wearing masks in crowded places. There is good evidence they help stop the spread.
  • Keep your distance from people you don't know. There's no way of knowing if someone else is vulnerable to the virus.
  • Get vaccinated if you can. For people with a compromised immune system, the more people who are vaccinated, the safer they will be.

Take action in your nation

See what Macmillan is calling for in your nation, and how you can support the campaign.

An illustrated map of England with the text 'England' on a purple background. More info

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, 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 to promote specialist cancer nurses’ wellbeing, and time and funding to access CPD.
  • Health Education England should urgently implement a careers framework to support more nurses to become specialist cancer nurses, including developing structured pathways from general adult nursing into specialist cancer nursing and a greater focus on cancer care in the undergraduate syllabus.
Northern Ireland More info

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 the recovery plan. This should be supported by a focus on retention, progress the next phase of the specialist cancer nurse expansion programme and invest the £7.2 million to train the specialist cancer nurses that our research demonstrates are needed in NI by 2030.
Scotland More info

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 More info

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.

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Cancer and coronavirus

We understand that people with cancer are worried about coronavirus. Here is the latest guidance.