Pilot launched in London to develop cancer CNS workforce

Five new senior cancer nurse posts are being created in London to address a “shrinking” number of specialists in the capital.

The new cancer nurse specialist development leads (CDLs), funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and NHS England, are intended to be leaders who will help support and develop the specialism across London.

“Maintaining and developing a cancer CNS workforce is vital for development of high-quality cancer services”

Ali Malik

The two-year pilot is led by North Central London Cancer Alliance and was started in response to falling numbers of experienced cancer nurse specialists and fewer nurses moving into the specialism.

A CDL will be placed into each London integrated care system, and will be responsible for developing 10-18 cancer nurse specialists in each area.

These five new nurse posts will provide guidance to new cancer nurse specialists via mentoring, education and coaching.

Ali Malik, managing director for North Central London Cancer Alliance, said the new posts should help build “greater workforce resilience” and sustainability across the capital.

“Maintaining and developing a cancer CNS workforce is vital for development of high-quality cancer services,” he said.

“We are delighted to be leading this project and collaborating with our colleagues across the capital to improve and champion the role of the cancer CNS.

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“Each healthcare area will have a CNS development lead, but we all recognise the need to have that bespoke support from an experienced senior nurse who will help CNSs to fully grow into their roles.

“At a time of increasing demand for cancer services, this will help build greater workforce resilience and long-term sustainability in London.”

North Central London Cancer Alliance said the CDLs’ work would be based on an existing framework for developing cancer nurse specialists, the ACCEND (Aspirant Cancer Career and Education Development) programme.

It pointed to experienced nurses retiring, a “misunderstanding” of the cancer nurse specialist role, limited exposure to cancer nursing in undergraduate training, the impact of Covid-19 and issues with career progression as challenges facing the specialism.

“This will help to retain and support high levels of care within our cancer nursing services”

Yvonne Beadle

Gabriella Massa, workforce transformation manager at NHS England, added: “Creating a strategy to recruit and retain cancer CNSs is crucial to support the workforce and for maintaining a high level of patient safety.

“We are very pleased to have co-funded this project and look forward to seeing how it will impact the future workforce and what lessons learnt can be shared and applied in other sectors of healthcare.”

Macmillan Cancer Support strategic partnership manager Yvonne Beadle said she hoped the new posts could “strengthen” the cancer workforce across London.

She added: “By providing expert mentorship, the nurses in these senior roles will be able to pass on their experience to new CNS post-holders, giving them the time and opportunity to develop.

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“This will help to retain and support high levels of care within our cancer nursing services and develop the cancer nursing leadership of the future.

“Cancer clinical nurse specialists are at the heart of good cancer care; patients often tell us how much they value their CNS and support they provide.

“This investment will ultimately make a huge difference to people living with cancer in London at a distressing time in their lives.”

The announcement of the CDL pilot comes on National Cancer CNS Day.

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