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Being assigned a clinical nurse specialist improves experiences of cancer care

Researchers from King’s College London have shown that patients assigned a clinical nurse specialist are more likely to report better care experiences across several important aspects of the cancer care pathway.

Clinical nurseIn cancer care, clinical nurse specialists (CNS) provide physical and emotional support to patients, coordinate care services, and ensure high-quality information is provided to patients.

Researchers from King’s College London, in collaboration with Public Health England, aimed to examine whether being given the name of a CNS is associated with better cancer patients’ experiences across different points in their care.

Published in the European Journal of Cancer Care, the research team used the Cancer Patient Experience Survey, which annually assesses patients’ experiences with NHS cancer care, and linked this data to several other cancer registration datasets held within Public Health England.

The results of the study demonstrated that patients who were assigned a CNS and were given their name were more likely to report better care experiences, such as being more involved in their treatment decisions, their care being more coordinated, being treated with more respect and dignity, and a better overall care experience with NHS cancer care.

Dr Saleh Alessy, research student at the King’s College London School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences, and lead author who conducted the research as part of his PhD, noted:

There is currently a debate on the role of CNS in NHS cancer care alongside the challenges of funding shortages and an ageing current workforce. Our research shows the vital contributions CNS make to cancer care and suggest their input and support should be available to all cancer patients.

These findings can help inform national policy, providing charities, cancer services and patient representatives with evidence of the significant role CNS play in improving cancer care. Future research should focus on how CNS care can become more accessible to patients. The results of the Cancer Patient Experience Survey can also help us understand the impact of COVID-19 on patients’ experiences with CNS.

Dr Alessy added:

We are very grateful for the invaluable input of the two patient representatives – Janette Rawlinson and Matthew Barker – who were part of this project and have not only provided invaluable insights into aspects of the data collected but assisted with the drafting of this paper.

The full article is available on the King’s College London website.

As a European Comprehensive Cancer Centre, the King's Health Partners Cancer Clinical Academic Group brings together world-class clinical services, research and education for the benefit of cancer patients in south east London and beyond.

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