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.