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Ovarian cancer nurses snowed under by caseloads

Clinical nurse specialists are an excellent resource for ovarian cancer patients, but often do not have the time to provide support due to the size of their case loads, according to a charity report.

Ovarian cancer patients say they need better quality care right from the very first instance of symptoms of the disease. That is one of the conclusions of a new report from the ovarian cancer support network Ovacome.

The report – based on a workshop with ovarian cancer patients and carers in January – suggests that the signs of the disease are not being recognised early enough by women and GPs. It also found that some women say clinicians do not always “take on board” the symptoms they say they are feeling.

Other findings from the workshop confirm that clinical nurse specialists can be of great help but some are so snowed-under with work that they are unable to provide enough support.

Some women also think they are not given the chance to discuss alternative treatments, as well as not getting enough support after treatment.

The report stated: “One in three women with ovarian cancer felt that their views were not taken into account by doctors and nurses discussing treatment and, although 91% of ovarian cancer patients were given the name of the clinical nurse specialist in charge of their care, only 68% said that their CNS was easy to contact.”

It added: “Many women commented on the impact that environment had on their experience of receiving treatment. Those in specialist centres liked being with other women going through the same treatment, others said that the day wards made you feel like you were on a ‘factory line’ or a ‘conveyor belt’ and that nurses did not have enough time to reassure patients and answer questions.”

The report calls for the national quality standard for ovarian cancer – published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence last July – to be extended to include the full patient experience, with sections on information, support, treatment and after-care, as well as the emphasis on early detection already in the document.

Ovarian cancer affects some 7,000 women every year and is the fifth most common form of the disease in women in Britain. Rates of survival are lower in England than in other nations and patients suffering from it experience poorer care than those affected by other cancers.

Ovacome’s worries about how well ovarian cancer patients are being looked after are shared by the National Forum of Gynaecological Oncology Nurses, according to its president Dr Tracie Miles.

She said CNSs are vital to improving care but there are less of them now than there were 18 months ago and as a result, sufferers of the disease are being given less time to receive the information and support they need from them.

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