The Cancer Reform Strategy, a five-year plan to improve services in England, was published by the Department of Health last week. It updates The NHS Cancer Plan of 2000.
The strategy emphasises the importance of the CNS role, stating that commissioners and service providers need to ‘take action where the CNS workforce is found to be insufficient’.
Launching the plan, health secretary Alan Johnson said: ‘Over the past decade there has been a significant expansion in the number of CNSs. [But] for certain cancer types, upwards of 20% of multidisciplinary teams do not have CNS cover.
‘There are evident shortfalls in the number of CNSs available to support patients with urological, lung and upper gastrointestinal cancers,’ he said.
Campaigners warned last month that the NHS needed to more than double the existing number of urological CNSs to improve the care of men with prostate cancer (NT News, 20 November, p5).
Richard Davidson, director of policy at Cancer Research UK, said the provision of CNSs should be wider and they should play a larger role in the care of cancer patients.
‘We welcome the fact that the role of the nurse specialist has been included in the strategy,’ he said. ‘All the evidence suggests that cancer patients – regardless of their tumour type – really benefit from the guidance, help and support provided by a CNS.’
Sue Cowdy, Macmillan lung nurse specialist at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, added: ‘Lung cancer remains one of the biggest killers in the UK, yet there are still very few lung cancer nurse specialists.
‘They are the key workers for the patient and are vital in supporting them on every step of their journey.’