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Prostate cancer charity highlights 'real concern' over gap in provision of specialist nurses

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A charity for men affected by prostate cancer has criticised the provision of specialist nursing services in England, in the wake of national patient survey results.

Prostate Cancer UK said there was a “gap in provision” of cancer nurse specialists across NHS trusts in England, which it described as “simply not good enough”.

“Every man with prostate cancer should have access to the expertise of nurse specialists”

Jade Fairfax

The charity also said the latest results from the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey showed a “worrying decline” in the number of prostate cancer patients given the name of a specialist nurse.

As reported earlier this month by Nursing Times, overall, the survey indicated a significant increase in the percentage of patients with trust and have confidence in all of the nursing staff treating them.

In 2016, 74% of respondents to the annual survey said that they had confidence and trust in all of the nurses involved in treating them.

In addition, 90% of respondents said they were given the name of a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) who would support them through their treatment.

However, Prostate Cancer UK has analysed the survey results specifically for men affected by prostate cancer.

It said a key area that needed to be highlighted was the variation in men accessing a cancer nurse specialist.

“It’s worrying to see increasing variation in men getting access to a named CNS”

Jade Fairfax

Overall, 88.4% of men with prostate cancer said they were given the name of a specialist nurse, said the charity.

But the charity said this figure had “disappointingly” gone down slightly from last year, when it was 89.1% – as well as being below the overall average for all cancer patients.

This fall was despite the “clear benefits that specialist nurses are known to bring to both patients and trusts”, it noted.

However, it stated that “of real concern” was the continued variation in access to specialist nurse support for prostate cancer patients, as indicated by the survey.

The figure ranged from 52% to 100% across trusts and “this gap in provision is simply not good enough”, said the charity.

Jade Fairfax, the charity’s change delivery officer, said: “It’s positive to see that there has been an improvement in overall patient experience for men with prostate cancer and, as a whole, the picture is improving across the country.

Prostate Cancer UK

Cancer charity warns of ‘gap in provision’ of specialist nurses

Source: Prostate Cancer UK

Specialist nurse with prostate cancer patient

“But on closer inspection, it’s disappointing to see that men with prostate cancer continue to face variation in their quality of patient experience, depending on where in the country they live,” she said in a policy blog.

“We believe that every man with prostate cancer should have access to the expertise of nurse specialists throughout their treatment and care journey, and in relation to their specific needs,” she said.

“There is strong evidence that demonstrates the allocation of a dedicated nurse specialist has a positive impact on patient experience and outcomes, so it’s worrying to see increasing variation in men getting access to a named CNS,” noted Ms Fairfax.

“With prostate cancer set to be the most common cancer by 2030, there is an increasing need for more nurses,” she said. “We have serious concerns about the nursing workforce’s ability to meet the current and future needs of the growing numbers of men with prostate cancer.

She added: “We want to see investment in CNS’s and best practice models of care. And we want the current workforce to be supported to develop specialist skills now and in the future.”

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