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Nurses in ‘ideal position’ to become key worker for breast cancer patients

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Nurses are in ‘the ideal position’ to take on the role of key worker for patients with advanced breast cancer, according to NICE guidance.

The institute’s latest clinical guideline recommends that patients with advanced disease should be allocated ‘key workers’ to oversee the management of their illness.

Kathleen Jenkins, a former Marie Curie community nurse and member of the guideline development group, said developments over the last 15 years meant advanced cancer could be managed more like a chronic illness and that nurses were in the ideal place to meet the needs of such patients.

‘Good supportive care, palliative care and attention to managing complications are key recommendations and of particular interest to nurses is the recommendation for the nomination of a key worker for individual patients. I consider nurses to be in an ideal position for this role,’ she said.

This guidance differs from the institute’s guidelines for rheumatoid arthritis, published last month, which stopped short of recommending that all patients with the condition have access to a specialist nurse – citing a lack of evidence on their benefit.
Breast cancer nurses welcomed the NICE guidelines but questioned whether there were sufficient staff and resources for nurses to take on the extra responsibilities of being a ‘key worker’.

Vickki Harmer, a clinical nurse specialist in breast cancer at St Mary’s Hospital in London, said: ‘Nurses must be mindful of their capabilities and the time they can realistically spend with these patients. These patients deserve much time and expert care as many have multi-factoral problems.’

Dawn Symonds, lead breast cancer nurse at Buckingham Hospitals NHS Trust, said her trust already had dedicated key workers for those with advanced disease but welcomed recommendations to roll it out elsewhere.

But she added: ‘It will be interesting to see how it is implemented. More and more work is being put on nurses such as the key worker but we have never had extra funding, time or resources.’

A second guideline on treatment of people with early breast cancer has also been published by the institute.

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