Macmillan calls on government to reverse the gap in the specialist cancer nurse workforce

The most recent workforce Macmillan census demonstrated that there are worrying vacancy rates across specialist cancer nurse roles in England with significant geographic variation. Subsequent patient and workforce reported data still demonstrates unmet need amongst people living with cancer. The Covid-19 pandemic has also recently illustrated the fragility of the cancer workforce. Within the report modelling developed by Macmillan now demonstrates that to deliver personalised care for everyone living with cancer, the specialist cancer workforce currently needs an additional 2,500 specialist cancer nurses, an increase of 84%.

By 2030, the gap between patient need and workforce capacity will have grown to 3,700 nurses, an increase of 123% over the number of specialist cancer nurses that we had at the time of the most recent census. The modelling also shows significant variation across cancer types with lung, breast and urology showing the largest shortfalls in staffing across the UK. Macmillan believe that these shortfalls will result in increasing unmet need for people living with cancer in the future unless there is a plan to ensure there is an adequate population of specialist cancer nurses to support them.

Within the report Macmillan also outline their continued belief in the value of the specialist cancer nurse role. Personalised care is designed in collaboration with the person who needs it, or with someone who knows them well, and is tailored to meet an individuals’ care and support needs. Effective delivery of personalised care therefore relies on professionals who have the skills and training to plan and deliver holistic care to patient. 

The main risks to the specialist cancer nursing work force are identified as 

  • Significant and growing shortages in the adult nursing population
  • Access to Continuing Professional Development
  • The specialist cancer nurse population is ageing, with 37% being over 50
  • Career pathway to the specialist cancer nurse role is complex and unstructured

Within ‘Addressing the Gap’ Macmillan lay out five key priorities for action to address this worsening problem 

  1.  The NHS must have a sustainable general adult nursing workforce to care for people living with cancer in all settings and to guarantee the pipeline needed to grow the specialist nursing workforce 
  2. The Health Education England CPD budget should urgently be restored to at least £205 million per year in a multi-year settlement, allowing national and local bodies to plan longer term. 
  3. Funding for CPD for specialist cancer nurses and for succession planning to support nurses to become cancer specialists should be ringfenced in local and national planning budgets. 
  4.  There must be a plan to increase local provision of training to ensure equality of opportunity for training and development for specialist cancer nurses across England. 
  5. Improved structured pathways from general adult nursing to specialist cancer nursing to support nurses to pursue a career in cancer care.

The full report is available here

Also – Rosie Walworth from Macmillan presents this report and the key findings at the UKONS conference. To register  CLICK HERE.