Macmillan nurses

As of June 2013, there were 3,942 Macmillan nurse posts across the UK, both in hospitals and in the community.

All Macmillan nurses are registered with at least five years' experience, including two or more years in cancer or palliative care. They have completed specialist courses in pain and symptom management, and psychological support.

Most of the nurses work in NHS hospitals or the community. A small number work in hospices and private hospitals, but do not charge for their services. As specialists they do not routinely undertake nursing care but are there to assess complex needs, give advice to other healthcare professionals and support people with cancer to understand their treatment options.

If you need more direct nursing care, there are other nurses who can help. 

We also employ nurses and other professionals on our help lines and mobile information units.

How to get support

You'll need to be referred by your GP, your hospital consultant, a district nurse or a hospital ward sister. Don't hesitate to ask them if there are Macmillan nurses available in your area. 

Macmillan nurses work throughout the country, but if there isn't a Macmillan service in your local area, you can be referred to alternative specialist services. 

Call us to find out about getting a referral for a Macmillan nurse.

Charmaine, Macmillan breast cancer nurse specialist

Charmaine talks about being a Macmillan breast cancer nurse specialist

About our cancer information videos

Charmaine, Macmillan breast cancer nurse specialist

Charmaine talks about being a Macmillan breast cancer nurse specialist

About our cancer information videos

Types of Macmillan nurses

Apart from the nurses who work on our support lines, most Macmillan nurses are usually employed by other organisations such as the NHS and their posts are funded by Macmillan for a set time, often for the first three years. After that time, the long-term funding is taken up by the NHS or other partner organisations although the nurse continues to be called a Macmillan Nurse. Macmillan continues to support these nurses in various ways and also provides ongoing funds for their education and development. 

Macmillan nurses specialise in particular cancer types or treatments. Some examples include:

  • Macmillan chemotherapy nurses give chemotherapy treatment to patients, and help them cope with any side effects.
  • Macmillan breast cancer nurses support women and some men from the screening and diagnosis stage, to helping them to make informed decisions about treatment and care. They give practical and emotional support and help some women come to terms with a mastectomy.
  • Macmillan paediatric nurses help children with cancer and their families. They provide support for the child and parents at home and in hospital, and help to keep children at home with their families as much as possible.
  • Macmillan palliative care nurses provide advice and support with pain and symptom management for people with palliative care needs through to end of life care. They support the person with cancer, their family, and the nurses and doctors who are looking after them. 
  • Macmillan lead nurses are senior nurse managers, helping shape the future of cancer and palliative care services in their area

How Macmillan nurses are funded

In the seventies, a trustee on the board of Macmillan named Henry Garnett set up the first ever national fundraising appeal to pay for a number of specialist palliative care nurses. The first of these nurses was funded in 1975 and since then we've grown in number. 

Read more about the history of the charity.

How to become a Macmillan nurse

Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialists are registered nurses, who have been educated to first degree level and have completed postgraduate learning or who are working towards postgraduate qualifications.

Find out more about how to become a Macmillan nurse

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Talking to us

Our team of specialist advisers are available on the phone or online. Send us an email or call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (7 days a week, 8am - 8pm).

Macmillan's Online Community

Macmillan’s Online Community is a network of people affected by cancer which anyone can join to get support from others any time. It’s anonymous, and free to join.