More than one-third of nurses have not had any specific education or training in helping to care for patients who have been diagnosed with cancer, reveals a survey carried out jointly by Nursing Times and Macmillan Cancer Support.
Perhaps of even more concern is that, of those who have received training, only 61% said it had given them sufficient understanding and knowledge to meet the needs of patients.
The online survey of just under 1,000 nurses also found that 82% of respondents considered that the needs of patients who had ‘survived cancer’ were not currently being met.
The survey findings come at a time when cancer is increasingly being seen as a long-term condition – one of the eight clinical care pathways around which NHS services should in future be developed, according to the NHS Next Stage Review.
The government has previously made cancer treatment a priority, publishing the NHS Cancer Plan in 2000 and the Cancer Reform Strategy in 2007. Nurses have been, and are, instrumental to achieving success in both (p8).
But the survey suggests that, despite the past and current political priority given to cancer and its high media profile as a disease area, nurses and their patients still lack sufficient support from the NHS.
Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘It is shocking that so many nurses believe that the NHS is failing cancer survivors.’
He added: ‘Two million people are currently living with a cancer diagnosis and yet our survey shows not all nurses have access to training.’
In particular, survey respondents identified the long-term effects of cancer treatment and how to manage them, emotional problems associated with the condition and services available for cancer survivors as the areas they wished to know more about.
Many survey respondents also highlighted access to information for patients themselves as a priority that would help support self-management of the condition. More self-management of long-term conditions by patients is also a goal of the government and appears in the next stage review.
‘Empowering the patient is vital,’ said one respondent. ‘They need to know, however, that there is someone they can contact when they need help – be that someone to talk to or someone who can guide them to the help they need.’
* Don’t miss the 16-page supplement, sponsored by Macmillan Cancer Support, on the long-term needs of cancer survivors in next week’s Nursing Times.