Cancer nurse numbers ‘reach peak’

Published: Tuesday 21st October 2014 by The News Editor

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The number of specialist adult cancer nurses in England has reached an all-time high, with more than 3,000 posts in the NHS, newly released figures show.

In the last three years alone, 283 more specialist cancer nurses are now working in hospitals, meaning there are now more than 3,000 posts in the NHS, according to Macmillan Cancer Support, which has funded the census.

But the charity warned that it is “no time for complacency” as research published last month showed that around one in 10 people with cancer in England have still not been assigned a cancer nurse.

It also found that o ne in three nurses are aged 50 or over, which means many will be approaching retirement in the next five to 10 years. For some cancers in certain parts of the country this rises to half of all cancer nurses.

Macmillan said t he census, which collected data from nearly all (97%) hospitals in England, highlights the crucial role it has played in supporting cancer nurses, as more than three-quarters (79%) of new posts since 2011 are Macmillan nurses.

Luke Bennett, 32, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2007, said he does not believe he would still be alive if it were not for the Macmillan nurse who helped him.

He said: “Family are great, but you need that extra level of knowledge.

“When I was being treated for bowel cancer I had two possible dates for my chemo. If my Macmillan nurse Theresa hadn’t helped me decide to take the earlier one, I might not be here today.

“She was honest when I needed someone to be honest. I’m massively grateful.”

Chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, Ciaran Devane, said the findings were “encouraging”.

“Research shows that having access to one of these cancer nurses is the one most important factors in making sure patients feel treated as human beings, supported and engaged in their care, rather than just a set of symptoms,” he added.

“But this is no time for complacency. The number of people living with cancer will double from two to four million by 2030 and many of these people will not just have cancer but a number of complex conditions.

“At the same time, we are faced with an ageing workforce with worrying numbers soon to retire.

“It will be a huge challenge for charities, decision makers in the NHS and politicians alike to make sure that the NHS cancer workforce is equipped, supported and flexible enough to manage this daunting change.”

Published: Tuesday 21st October 2014 by The News Editor

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