Cancer nurse numbers reach all-time high

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The number of specialist adult cancer nurses within England has peaked with more than 3000 posts filled in the NHS.

Over the past three years, 283 more specialist cancer nurses have been employed in hospitals, which means more than 3000 posts have become available in the NHS, according to Macmillan Cancer Support, who was responsible for the census.

However, the charity has issued a warning that this is not the time to become complacent as research which was published last month indicated that about 10% of cancer patients in England have still not been assigned a cancer nurse. It also discovered that a third of the nurses are aged over 50, which implies that many of them will be approaching retirement within the next five to 10 years. In certain parts of the country, this number increases to around 50%.

The census collected data from around 97% of the hospitals within England and places focus on the crucial role Macmillan has played in the support of cancer nurses. Approximately 79% of the new posts since 2011 have been filled by Macmillan nurses.

Luke Bennett aged 32, was diagnosed with bowel cancer during 2007 and said that he does not believe he would still be alive if he had not received support from his Macmillan nurse. He said that although it is great to have family, the added knowledge about the condition is also a requirement. He said that if his support nurse had not helped him decide to take the earlier chemo date, he may not be here today.

The chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, Ciaran Devane, said that research has shown that gaining access to a cancer nurse is an important factor in ensuring patients feel that they are being treated as humans, rather than a set of symptoms.

She said that charities, politicians and the NHS decision makers will have to face a massive challenge to ensure that the NHS cancer workforce is supported, equipped and flexible enough to manage the change of nurses retiring.

Image Credit: Phil and Pam Gradwell (to be)

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