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Call to expand cancer remit for practice nurses

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The role of practice nurses should be expanded to provide routine support and follow up to cancer survivors, according to one of the country’s leading GPs.

Speaking last week in a conference on the Cancer Reform Strategy, Steve Field, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said primary care could improve the way it dealt with patients who had previously had cancer.

He said: “I’m quite taken with the role of the specialist breast cancer nurses and certainly, from personal experience, they provide support emotionally and physically.

“I just wonder whether we should look at expanding that role in primary care,” he told delegates at the Westminster Health Forum event.

He said that while it was something GPs could start to do, a “better alternative” could be looking at “expanding the role of the nursing community to do that sort of role”.

Cancer charity representatives also warned that clinical nurse specialist posts had to be protected.

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation chief executive Rosemary Gillespie said: “There’s evidence that in times of financial constraint the CNSs tend to get taken away from their core duties and used elsewhere in hospitals, and I have experienced that happening.

“We need to ensure cancer nurse specialist posts are maintained and protected across the board. These nurses are vital for supporting patients and their families,” she said.

She added: “What CNSs really, really need is cast iron evidence that they are delivering outcomes, including financial outcomes.”

Conservative health spokesman Mark Simmonds hinted that a future Tory government would be against trusts redirecting clinical nurse specialists to other roles.

He said: “We think that all too often specialist nurses are pulled into other areas of responsibility.

“We don’t think there are enough of them and certainly we would like to get into the position where every single cancer patient has a specialist nurse allocated to them,” he added.  

Arnie Purushotham, director of the King’s Health Partners Integrated Cancer Centre, said: “They’re a fundamental group of healthcare professionals for cancer patients and any compromise on that will be to the detriment of patients’ wellbeing.”

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