Less than a quarter of lung cancer patients get ongoing support from a specialist nurse, despite their vital role in ensuring high quality care, according to new research.
Patients lives are being put at risk by delays and gaps in care, claims the report by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC), which is based on a nationwide survey.
The survey found just 22% of patients said they had received continuous support from a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or key worker even though their input can help improve patients’ experiences of care and ensure they get the treatment they need.
The report, which makes a series of recommendations for health and social care providers, said multi-disciplinary teams should include a trained CNS “to provide support and information for patients and their families”.
“Access to a CNS has been shown to play a vital role in the delivery of high quality patient-centred care and treatment to people with cancer,” said the report.
“As well as those patients allocated a CNS being more positive about the experience of their care, access to a CNS has also been identified as increasing the chances of a patient receiving chemotherapy and helping to reduce emergency admissions and hospital stays.”
However, there is evidence of wide variation in the number of full-time CNS available in local areas, it added.
The report stresses that simply allocating a CNS is not enough and that patients should have “meaningful and regular access to a CNS” to help meet their care needs, ensure they understand treatment options, and identify side effects of treatment that may need medical attention.
The survey of more than 430 patients and carers found nearly half of lung cancer patients – 46% – experienced delays at some stage of their care while only about two thirds – 64% – said they got a prompt referral to hospital.
The report also highlights the importance of providing care plans that are reviewed at key stages of treatment with input from healthcare professionals including nurses.
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