There are not enough specialist nurses to cope with the demands of the UK’s biggest cancer killer, according to a new report.
More than 40,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year with fewer than one in 10 likely to survive beyond five years.
However, despite the poor outcomes for the disease, experts fear that specialist nurse posts may be cut as part of NHS cutbacks.
The report, from the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and the National Lung Cancer Forum for Nurses, calls for current posts to be protected and increased in number in order to help improve survival rates.
Dr Jesme Fox, Medical Director of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “Lung cancer nurse specialists are vital if we are to start improving survival rates for the UK’s biggest cancer killer.
“Research shows us that patients who have a specialist nurse are twice as likely to receive treatment as those who don’t.
“Yet our report shows that some patients are not being seen by a specialist nurse at all and that nurses are struggling to cope with their increasing workloads.
“NHS commissioners must ensure there are sufficient numbers of these specialists in place and that all patients have equitable access to these nurses, regardless of where they live.”
John White, Chair of the National Lung Cancer Forum for Nurses, added: “Specialist nursing posts are often placed under threat during times of financial austerity, despite evidence that patients value the services provided by specialist nurses greatly.
“With the ongoing financial pressures in the NHS, we are concerned that these posts may be threatened.
“As this report illustrates, specialist nurses are essential to the delivery of high quality care and improved outcomes for patients.
“Posts must be maintained and, where possible, the numbers increased so all patients with lung cancer have access to a specialist nurse.”
According to the report, only 80% of lung cancer patients are seen by a specialist nurse.
In England, there is only one lung cancer nurse specialist per 161 patients and in Scotland this figure rises to 200.
The report found that increasing caseloads and paperwork were affecting nurses’ ability to provide high quality care for their patients.
It also recommended that;
- Patients should be able to access a specialist nurses at all stages, from pre-diagnosis to end of life care
- National clinical guidelines should reflect the important role played by lung cancer nurse specialists
- Specialist nurses should be recognised as the patient’s advocate at multi-disciplinary team meetings
- Resources should be provided for nurse-led clinics and to help smokers to quit
- More research should be carried out into why those patients who see specialist nurses are more likely to receive treatment
- Nurse-led follow up after treatment should be offered to all patients
- Lung cancer nurse specialists should be recognized as the patient’s advocate at multi-disciplinary team meetings
The Understanding The Value Of Lung Cancer Nurse Specialists report is available to download here.
Lung Cancer Facts
- Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the Uki
- Each year, around 41,500 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UKii
- Only around a third will survive for three years after diagnosis and fewer than one in ten survive beyond five yearsiii
- More than two thirds of patients are diagnosed at a stage when treatment which could cure them is no longer an optioniv
- Although it is more common in smokers, around one in eight people with lung cancer has never smokedv
i.Figures from Cancer Research UK, accessed October 2012.
ii.Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Lung Cancer Facts & Figures, accessed on 9 December 2012.
iii.National Cancer Intelligence Network, Cancer e-Atlas, accessed on 18 December 2012.
iv. Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Explaining Variations In Lung Cancer In England, July 2011.