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Lung cancer patients twice as likely to get treatment if they see a nurse

  • 6 Comments

Lung cancer patients who see a specialist nurse are twice as likely as other patients with the disease to receive any form of treatment, according to latest data.

The national lung cancer audit, which was published by the NHS Information Centre on Wednesday, reveals details of services provided to 38,000 lung cancer patients across the UK during 2010.

The audit found only 58% of lung cancer patients in England and Wales received active treatment in 2010 – with just 14% receiving surgery.

However, it also showed that access to specialist nursing was a major factor in whether patients received treatment. It revealed 64% of patients seen by a specialist nurse received anti-cancer treatment compared to 30% of those who did not see a nurse.

The report said this “interesting observation” needed investigation outside of the audit, and cautioned it did not necessarily “imply” a cause and effect relationship between nursing input and receiving treatment.

But audit clinical lead Mick Peake, a respiratory consultant at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, told Nursing Times his “gut feeling” was that the finding was partly explained by the impact of nurses “working as advocates”, and spending time explaining treatment options with patients which they could then reflect on.

He said it might also be an indicator of the higher overall specialism of the clinical team in question.  

The audit also showed that access to specialist nursing was one of the few areas of lung cancer treatment that showed a marked improvement in England and Wales last year.

The percentage of patients seen by a specialist cancer nurse increased from 64% to 75% between 2009 and 2010, while the number of patients that had a nurse present at diagnosis rose from 38% to 48%.

However, access to a specialist nurse in 2010 ranged from just 12% of patients seeing one in the Kent and Medway Cancer Network to 90% in the Mount Vernon cancer network in Hertfordshire.

Data for Northern Ireland showed 63% of patients saw a specialist nurse in 2010, down from 67% in 2009, while 84% patients in Scotland saw a nurse in 2010, but comparative data was not published for the previous year.

  • 6 Comments

Readers' comments (6)

  • michael stone

    Strangely enough, 'interesting' was exactly my thought about the headline - this raises a lot of further questions !

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  • I have very recent experience of the journey from diagnosis to treatment of lung cancer. Without the support and patience of her Specialist Nurse, my mother and I would not have been sufficiently informed about treatment options. A brief consultation with her Oncologist resulted in her consenting for radiotherapy, but thankfully we then discussed this decision with her Specialist Nurse who gave her much more information and allowed her to make a more informed choice...she changed her mind and is currently undergoing chemotherapy...the Gold Standard treatment. With grateful thanks to John White at the St James's Institute of Oncology, Leeds.

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  • The value of the specialist or advanced nurse can not be taken lightly - love the bit about it being an 'interesting observation' - a comment stating patient patients twice as likely to get treatment if they see a nurse vs doctor would be far too controversial.

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  • There is actually quite a lot of research and data on improved outcomes due to specialist Nurses, but as always these are ignored and specialist Nurse posts are cut, and the ones that remain are underused, underpaid, undervalued and unrecognized.

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  • michael stone | 7-Dec-2011 10:50 am

    a very profound observation!

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  • michael stone | 7-Dec-2011 10:50 am

    a very profound observation! Presumably you are also an expert in this field.

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