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Learnings from Practice Nurse cancer course – Rebecca Billingsley, Macmillan Primary Nurse Facilitator Solihull

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As more people live beyond a cancer diagnosis and treatment, more are living with the late effects of cancer and/or treatment, and at the end of primary treatment patients often report feeling ‘abandoned’.

The Recovery Package was developed as a joint approach between Macmillan, Department of Health and NHS Improvement to assist people living with a cancer diagnosis to prepare for the future, identify their individual needs and to support rehabilitation to enable people to return to work and or a near normal lifestyle (NCSI, 2012). The Recovery Package includes four components: Health needs assessment, Treatment summaries, Health and wellbeing clinics and Cancer Care Reviews.

Evidence shows that Practice Nurses are in an ideal position to undertake holistic cancer care assessments as they already see patients with other life limiting illnesses. Nurses also have many transferable skills in order to support this group of patients and are able to undertake opportunistic reviews (such as when taking a blood pressure or administering cancer injections) as well as the cancer reviews.

The Macmillan Cancer Course has been specifically developed for Practice Nurses, to increase their confidence when seeing cancer patients. The course was delivered to 11 Practice Nurses within Solihull over eight months, and included topics such as What is cancer?, Treatment pathways, Living with cancer, Motivational interviewing, Difficult conversations, and Nutrition and cancer.

Post course findings showed that the nurses felt much more confident to discuss cancer and to signpost appropriately if they were unable to help during the conversation. The patients reviewed at the surgery now understand that they can attend their GP practice if they have any concerns and feel confident that their Practice Nurse can either support them or signpost them to someone who can help. Using the Macmillan checklist prior to the meeting also reassures patients that they can discuss matters such as financial issues, emotional problems, sexuality, spirituality, etc rather than concentrating only on the physical aspects of cancer and treatment.

One nurse said: ‘I now have increased confidence when undertaking CCRs and when talking to patients with cancer who came in for something else’ and another said: ‘I’ve been a practice nurse for many years and attended many courses over the years. This is by far the best course I’ve been on and I wish I’d done something like this sooner’.

For more information on the course, email Paul Lees, Project Manager for GP Education at Macmillan.
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