The Government's spending review included the promise of funding to train Clinical Nurse Specialists, but more action is needed to address a massively strained workforce.

5 Sep 2019

The Government has just announced extra funding towards training Clinical Nurse Specialists in its spending review. But recent research shows many patients don't get access to the best support because of a workforce under huge strain.

Heather Blake, Director of Support and Influencing at Prostate Cancer UK said: “There are already an estimated 400,000 men living with prostate cancer in the UK and this number is on the rise. It’s encouraging to hear more funds for nurse training pledged in the Government’s spending review, but we still need to see a comprehensive strategy to increase nurse numbers and reduce the excessive burden on current nurses, if we are to avoid thousands with prostate cancer missing out on the support they need.”

“We know that men with prostate cancer who have access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist have a better patient experience. Despite this, the latest National Cancer Patient Experience survey highlights once again that men’s access to a CNS for prostate cancer still lags behind compared to other common cancers."

We still need to see a comprehensive strategy to increase nurse numbers and reduce the excessive burden on current nurses, if we are to avoid thousands with prostate cancer missing out on the support they need.

- Heather Blake

 

Our survey highlights urgent need to support prostate cancer nurses

We recently carried out a separate survey of Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) which highlighted major issues which could see the workforce collapse within the next 10 years unless urgent action is taken.

We know that prostate cancer is set to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer overall by 2030, so unless this trend is reversed and 500 more nurses are recruited in the next decade, thousands of men could miss out on the support they need.

We surveyed almost 100 CNSs who work with men affected by prostate cancer:

  • 42 per cent are approaching retirement or intending to leave nursing within the next 10 years.
  • Almost a third are working with more than 600 patients at once.
  • Almost nine in 10 nurses also reported regularly working unpaid overtime.
  • Over one in 10 worked more than 10 extra hours each week.
  • The nurses with the heaviest workloads were even more likely to say that they would leave the profession within the next 10 years.

Heather Blake said: “This has become a ticking time bomb, and without urgent action there will simply not be enough nurses to cope with the increasing number of men who are diagnosed.

“The survey also shows that more needs to be done to support the existing workforce, as too many of them are overstretched, overworked and under-appreciated. We want to work with decision makers to explore creative ways to support the workforce more widely.

“The NHS Long Term Plan says that every person diagnosed with cancer should have access to personalised care of the kind provided by a CNS. But without a bold strategy from NHS providers across the UK, both to increase nurse numbers and reduce the excessive burden on current nurses, thousands of men could miss out on the support they need.”

Access to a CNS makes a huge difference to men with prostate cancer

Simon Lord was supported by a Clinical Nurse Specialist during his experience of prostate cancer and now works as a personal trainer alongside a specialist nurse to support men recovering from prostate cancer. He is calling for all men with prostate cancer to have access to the same level of support he received.

Simon said: “Clinical nurse specialists are so important to support men like me, who’ve been through or are living with prostate cancer. They ease your concerns in ways that cannot be measured at what can be a stressful time for us as patients and for our partners and families. Knowing there was a nurse with specialist training who was part of my treatment and care provided me with immense reassurance.

“I’ve had no issues since my surgery in 2010, but I’m still in contact with my CNS. I’m now a personal trainer and soon will qualify as a cancer exercise rehabilitation specialist. I’m going to be helping the CNS who supported me, to write exercise advice for her patients. Between us we are going to give even more support to other men who have prostate cancer.”

Knowing there was a nurse with specialist training who was part of my treatment and care provided me with immense reassurance.


We have also worked alongside Movember to develop a Supported Self-Management approach, which offers a revolutionary new digital model of follow-up care for prostate cancer. It gives men control of their own care through an easy-to-use online portal, freeing vital NHS time and resources while maintaining or even improving outcomes for the men involved. 

In addition, to help tackle the pressure on nurses, we have recently developed a guide for decision makers to help them develop a strategic plan for CNSs in prostate cancer care.

Extra funding for training is good news, but to make sure all men with prostate cancer can get the vital care Simon received we need to see a full strategy with more nurses, and improved support for the whole workforce.

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