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Encouraging signs for team role of lung cancer specialist nurses

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There has been an “encouraging” increase in patient access to lung cancer specialist nurses, but capacity for further improvement remains, according to a report by doctors.

The report, published last week by the UK lung Cancer Coalition, looked at progress in the development of multi-disciplinary teams for treating and caring for lung cancer patients.

It highlighted that multi-disciplinary teams were “at the heart of delivering improved care for people with different types of cancers” and helped move away from generalist, siloed working practices and poor communication.

“Due to the important role lung CNSs play, these findings are encouraging”

UKLCC report

In particular, it reviewed progress in the development of such teams since the group published a similar audit in 2012, called Dream MDT, which highlighted the vital role of specialist nurses.

The new report noted that clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) in lung cancer worked differently to those caring for patients with other cancers – supporting patients from initial presentation through investigations to treatment, into palliative and supportive care.

“Indeed, insights from the clinical interviews underpinning this report identified the potential value of CNSs in providing a holistic approach to care, often trained in providing additional psychological and financial support,” it stated.

The report said it was “encouraging” to see that the proportion of lung patients seen by a specialist nurse had improved to nearly 84% in the past year and the proportion of patients who have one present at the time of diagnosis has risen from 61% to 65% in 2014.

It noted, however, that access to a nurse was not the only important aspect, highlighting that the experience patients have with their CNS and the ongoing support they receive was of “equal merit”.

The report cited national survey data showing an improvement in lung cancer patients’ experiences with specialist nurses since 2012.

“Trusts need to ensure lung CNSs are more involved with pre-diagnosis care of suspected lung cancer patients”

UKLCC report

It said lung cancer patients recorded the third highest scores of the 12 cancers surveyed, with 92% saying they were given the name of a CNS in charge of their care – a 1% increase from 2013 – with 75% also noting how easy it was for them to contact their nurse.

The report stated: “Due to the important role lung CNSs play, these findings are encouraging. However, it is important to ensure all lung cancer patients are able to both access lung CNS support as well as feel the CNS is available and willing to answer any questions they have.

“In addition, trusts need to ensure lung CNSs are more involved with pre-diagnosis care of suspected lung cancer patients and not just become involved once a patient has started treatment,” it said.

In its recommendations, the coalition called on multi-disciplinary teams to ensure the ratio of lung clinical nurse specialists to patients ratio was “adequate” to allow the nurse to be a “core part” of the team and “be available for diagnostic, treatment and end of treatment appointments for all patients”.

The coalition’s document pooled nursing workforce data from the National Lung Cancer Audit, published earlier this month by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, and cited other information from the latest National Cancer Patient Experience Survey, published in November.

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