Nurses have ‘central role’ in improving lung cancer care

Specialist nurses are key to better co-production with patients, a report into improving lung cancer care has said.

The United Kingdom Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC) earlier this month published its report on driving quality improvements in lung cancer care.

“We will never change anything if we don’t learn from others and share what’s working well”

Mick Peake

Professor Robert Rintoul, professor of thoracic oncology at University of Cambridge and UKLCC clinical lead, said there were still “wide variations and inequalities” in access to lung cancer treatments across the UK.

The report, Professor Rintoul said, promotes the use of case studies from UK organisations which had significantly improved care, as models for clinicians to emulate in their own areas.

One case study, Greater Manchester’s one-stop lung cancer clinic, was used as an example of a successful improvement scheme.

The one-stop model ensured all cancer specialists ran their clinics on the same site of the hospital at the same time, to reduce delays in treatment starting for patients.

Prior to this, some patients with early-stage cancer who were suitable for surgery or radiology could wait 30 days between diagnosis to treatment decision because of the need to see multiple clinicians in different areas who worked at differing times.

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In its report, UKLCC made a series of recommendations for lung cancer services in the UK.

These included asking professionals to take best practice from other countries, improving data gathering to spot areas for improvement, making use of cheap or free improvements to keep costs down and including the entire clinical team and their patients in quality improvement processes.

Registered cancer nurse Tracey Cole, who is a Darzi clinical fellow and cancer genomics programme education and training lead at the North Thames Genomic Medicine Service, contributed to the report.

A section of the report, based on Ms Cole’s evidence at UKLCC’s conference in 2023, stated that patients “need to be engaged and involved” in the process of improving services, and that more collaboration was needed between patients and clinicans, and between different teams, services and professionals.

Tracey Cole

Tracey Cole

The report added that cancer nurse specialists were “fundamentally important” in achieving co-production with patients.

“In terms of lung cancer care, there are many things that are done well, but in addressing the opportunities for improvement, the ability to establish co-productive working with colleagues and with patients, will be crucial,” it added.

“The central role of cancer nurse specialists in caring for the patient’s wellbeing, also places them at the centre of improving patient engagement and through this, improving services for patients.”

It added: “If this is done correctly, patient engagement shifts to becoming co-production where people using the services are in an equal partnership with the people responsible for delivering them.”

Professor Mick Peake, UKLCC chair, emphasised the importance of the report’s recommendations to share success stories.

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“We will never change anything if we don’t learn from others and share what’s working well,” Professor Peake said.

“We challenge those reading our report to consider how they can drive improvements in their own area.

“Patients should expect nothing less than access to consistent, high-quality care, and best possible survival chances – whoever they are and wherever they live.”

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