UKONS Annual Conference 2011

The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), Glasgow

The fifth annual UKONS conference, held in Glasgow in October, offered oncology nurses an opportunity to step back and reflect on the era of change that was set in motion by the UK Government’s 2010 white paper on NHS reform.

Conference Report

The fifth annual UKONS conference, held in Glasgow in October, offered oncology nurses an opportunity to step back and reflect on the era of change that was set in motion by the UK Government’s 2010 white paper on NHS reform.

Many nurses are facing difficult challenges, yet there is still room for optimism. During the conference, one of the emerging themes was that nurses should feel empowered to lead change at a local level—by teaching, leading by example or leading by mentoring. Another driver of change is the shift towards viewing cancer as a long-term condition, which has implications for how and where care is delivered over a patient’s lifetime. An estimated 2 million people are now living with a cancer diagnosis in the UK and this figure is set to rise to 4 million by 2030. There are real opportunities to improve outcomes and experiences by implementing a patient-centred model of care, with an emphasis on supporting patients throughout their cancer journey. 

Survivorship—why bother?

Natalie Doyle, UKONS President Elect, kicked off the survivorship theme with a presentation about new approaches to follow-up care for patients who have completed their initial cancer treatment. A risk-stratified model of care—informed by professional judgement and the needs of the patient—can help to target resources where they are needed most, and allow a return to normal daily life. Most patients will be able to manage the transition from treatment to living beyond cancer through self-care with support, including access to surveillance as required and rapid access to care if symptoms occur.

Some patients will fall into the shared-care category, where direct access to healthcare professionals will continue during follow up. Some patients will require complex case management through the multidisciplinary team, for example if they are living beyond cancer but with the consequences of treatment. The collaborative group Consequences of Cancer and its Treatment is already working to improve the care and experience of people living with the effects of cancer (

Regulation, public protection and leadership

Turning to professional standards, Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) emphasised that the key to public protection is proactive regulation. The NMC is responding to the challenge by actively addressing poor practice, working more closely with other regulators and responding to public expectations of regulation. A clinician-led screening team now deals with 50–70 referrals a week (up to 40% of which are closed immediately), while a new critical standards intervention team has opened 250 proactive cases of suspected failure of professional standards since March 2011.

Dickon urged nurses to act as leaders in their day-to-day work and create a positive environment in which high-quality compassionate care can flourish. He also highlighted the importance of using the nursing code of ethics (which is currently being rewritten by the NMC) to inform the way that patient care is managed. The ethics code is the cornerstone of nursing and midwifery practice.

To keep up to date with NMC policy, practice and public protection, subscribe to the organisation’s magazine NMC Review (

Benefits of an exercise programme after cancer treatment

The survivorship theme was examined in more detail during one of four parallel symposia, which included a presentation from Gillian Knowles (Edinburgh Cancer Centre) on the benefits of a 12-week exercise and lifestyle programme for patients who have recently undergone curative treatment for cancer. Each session included 45 minutes of exercise and 45 minutes of lifestyle advice such as stress management techniques. Significant improvements in fatigue, depression, cardio-respiratory function and muscular strength were seen in patients who completed the pilot study in Lothian, which was supported by MacMillan. The next challenge will be to find a way of expanding the relatively low-cost programme in a time of financial constraint.

Targeted therapies

In another session that focused on chemotherapy, UKONS President Cheryl Vidall gave an informative talk on the development of targeted therapies. She explained that targeted therapies tap into the mechanisms that have gone wrong in cancer cells; they may not offer a cure, but they could stop disease progression and achieve a good outcome by giving the right treatment to the right patient. Oncology nurses already have a pivotal role in the management of patients receiving these therapies, including educating and supporting patients and their carers, and this aspect of care is set to increase with the predicted rise in new targeted therapies over the next 2 to 3 years. Cheryl highlighted the need to train oncology nurses to recognise and manage the different side-effects associated with these treatments.

The changing landscape of care

Focusing on the Scottish response to national drivers of change, Ros Moore, Chief Nursing Officer for the Scottish Government, said that true partnerships which share the responsibilities of outcomes are the way forward. Rather than adopting a “fast-food” approach to nursing, there is a need to take a more sophisticated approach to organising and delivering care that will achieve a person-centred output. Ros called on oncology nurses to help act as leaders and share some of the solutions, as new models of professional practice are developed that will evolve the service while retaining core values and principles. For example, care will be where the patient is—delivered through either virtual or actual care relationships—and there will be an emphasis on managing the patient’s cancer journey. Fiscal constraints will also challenge partnerships to seek other ways of driving change, such as by involving local communities.

Achieving your personal best

This year’s motivational address was given by Paralympic gold medallist swimmer, Marc Woods, who talked about the determination to achieve his “personal best” after being diagnosed with cancer at 17 years of age and having his left leg amputated. Within a year Marc was swimming more quickly than he had done with two legs, and he went on to win medals at the Paralympics in Seoul and Barcelona before becoming a full-time athlete. But after his four-man swimming team lost the 34-point relay by just 1/1200th of a second at the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996, Marc realised he still had a lot to learn about leadership. Rising to the challenge for the next Paralympics, Marc set about getting to know his team properly, making sure they all believed in the best possible outcome and doing what he could to help each team member achieve it. His approach paid off when the team won a gold medal at the Sydney Paralympics in 2000, highlighting the importance of making sure that all members of a team are striving for the same thing.

Challenges of adherence to oral cancer treatment

For the third year running, the UKONS conference included a joint day with the British Oncology Pharmacy Association (BOPA). UKONS President Cheryl Vidall joined David Thomson, Chair of BOPA, in welcoming delegates to the talks, which promised to be of interest for both oncology nurses and oncology pharmacists. This day included parallel sessions on topics as diverse as NHS policy, cancer genetics, cancer vaccines and late effects of chemotherapy.

The challenge of adherence to oral cancer treatment is one area where both nurses and pharmacists could have a big influence. Lina Eliasson from Imperial College, London, presented a case study of 21 patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia who were taking imatinib. She found that most patients were non-adherent to some degree, which had implications for the efficacy of their treatment, since missing more than just two doses a month could have a negative effect on a patient’s response. Lina recommends establishing an agreed way to deal with non-adherence, which should include open and non-judgemental communication and support for patients. Telephone follow-up could be a valuable way of supporting patients to improve compliance.

UKONS 2012

The main message for oncology nurses from the 2011 UKONS conference was the ongoing need to rise to the challenge of reform in the NHS and have an active role in shaping and delivering better cancer services for patients. For an opportunity to take stock of progress a year from now and exchange ideas with colleagues from around the UK, book a place at the 2012 UKONS conference, which will be held in Harrogate on Thursday 17th and Friday 18th of October (see for details).

Presentations from the UKONS Annual Conference 2011

Speaker Description Download
View the programme BOPAandUKONSDraftProgramme.pdf
Anthony Chalmers The future of radiotherapy: Better targeting, better combinations Professor_Anthony_Chalmers.pdf
Candy McCabe and Rachael Bolitho Late effects and lessons learned from RAGE Professor_Candy_McCabe_and_Rachael_Bolitho.pdf
Cheryl Vidall Targeted therapies Cheryl_Vidall.pdf
Dany Bell Using cognitive behavioural therapies principles in self management Dany_Bell.pdf
Diana Greenfield Assessment and management of chemotherapy induced late effects Dr_Diana_Greenfield.pdf
Dickon Wier-Hughes Regulation, public protection and leadership in cancer nursing Professor_Dickon_Weir-Hughes.pdf
Dierdre Brunton and Sue Dolby Transition in cancer care Deirdre_Brunton__Sue_Dolby.pdf
Gillian Knowles Evaluation of a pilot lifestyle and exercise programme Gillian_Knowles.pdf
Ian Costello and Sarah Barnhill The 'new' NHS: Risks and opportunities for NHS chemotherapy services Ian_Costello__Sarah_Barnhill.pdf
Jane Whittome Modules of care in acute oncology Jane_Whittome.pdf
Jane Whittome and Gail Caldwell Using information to improve quality Jane_Whittome__Gail_Caldwell.pdf
Kathleen Mais Nutrition and radiotherapy Kathleen_Mais.pdf
Lina Eliasson Adherence in oral cancer treatment: Is there a problem and what can we do about it? Dr_Lina_Eliasson.pdf
Louise Hooker Development of a service for teenagers and young adults with cancer Louise_Hooker.pdf
Mark Longmuir Cancer genetics: Issues for nursing and pharmacy Mark_Longmuir.pdf
Mike Hobday Impact of the NHS reforms on the care of patients with cancer Mike_Hobday.pdf
Sir Mike Richards Improving cancer outcomes in the reformed NHS Professor_Sir_Mike_Richards.pdf
Mike Stevens Aftercare: Recreating life after experiencing the impact of the diagnosis of cancer and its treatment Professor_Mike_Stevens.pdf
Nicola Stoner Cancer vaccines: Issues for nursing and pharmacy Professor_Nicola_Stoner.pdf
Roma Maguire and Lynn Irvine The use of PROMs in identifying the supportive care needs of patients with lung cancer Roma_Maguire__Lynn_Irvine.pdf
Ros Moore UKONS: Continuity and change Ros_Moore.pdf
Victoria Murday Cancer genetics Dr_Victoria_Murday.pdf
Eisai Satellite EMBRACE change: A COverall SurvivalT worth paying? Eisai_satellite.pdf
Roche Satellite Signposts on the road to personalised medicine Roche_Satellite.pdf
UKONS AGM UKONS AGM 2010-2011 UKONS_AGM_Slides.pdf
UKONS Forum Feedback UKONS Forum Feedback 2011 UKONS_Forum_Feedback.pdf