A new professional framework has been launched by Health Education England (HEE) to help boost the number of nurses choosing to go into cancer care.
The framework was developed in partnership with Skills for Health as part of the UK-wide Aspirant Cancer Career and Education Development programme (ACCEND).
“The framework comes at a particularly critical time for the UK nursing workforce”
It is intended to attract registered nurses and allied health professionals (AHPs) into a career in cancer care to help address the longstanding cancer workforce crisis.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, 44% of cancer nurses in England reported that their workload was negatively impacting the quality of care they were able to give to patients, according to research done in 2021 by charity Macmillan Cancer Support.
The charity has since calculated that an addition 4,000 cancer nurses will be needed by 2030 to meet the needs of the growing number of cancer patients.
And a report from the Health and Social Care Committee last April warned that without a “serious effort” to plug the cancer workforce gaps, cancer survival rates in England would continue to lag behind those of other developed countries.
A shortage of cancer clinical nurse specialists (CNS) was flagged as posing a particular threat to patient outcomes.
Those behind the framework highlighted how one of the obstacles that has historically prevented nurses from going into cancer care is the lack of a clear structured pathway to specialist cancer nursing, with large variations in the training requirements for specialist cancer nurse roles in different employers.
The ACCEND framework was therefore developed to provide a nationally agreed career pathway for nurses and AHPs looking to work in specialist cancer roles or services.
It provides guidance on routes into working in cancer care and on career progression, and includes a detailed capabilities and education framework.
It sets out the requirements for effective and safe practice in cancer care across a range of professional levels, from supportive, assistive, pre-registration and registration, to enhanced, advanced and consultant levels of cancer care.
Professor Mark Radford, chief nurse at HEE, said “The ACCEND programme will support our cancer nurses and AHPs to stay fit for the future with a national framework of education pathways to help our staff to improve and expand their cancer services.
“The competences outline how nurses caring for adults living with and beyond cancer, can enhance their knowledge and skills and if they so wish, advance in a career in cancer nursing.”
Professor Radford described the framework as “aspirant in encouraging nurses to reach their best potential whether they are working in a supportive, assisted, or registered nursing role”.
“It guides the core capabilities needed to nurse for people living with and beyond cancer at any point on their pathway without specifying the type of role required,” he added.
Meanwhile, chief nursing officer at Macmillan Cancer Support Claire Taylor, said: “The framework comes at a particularly critical time for the UK nursing workforce; as we cope with increased waiting times and cancer backlogs.
“This framework inspires us to look forward and consider how we can develop ourselves and those around us.
“The framework reflects the breadth of the modern cancer team and the requirements at each level of practice”
“This is so important for both our professional development and our profession.”
Ms Taylor said the framework was easy to navigate and should be the ‘go to’ for all nurses who support people with cancer.
“I truly believe that ACCEND has the potential to be transformative in cancer nursing careers,” she added.
Chair of the Royal College of Nursing Cancer and Breast Care Forum Nikki Morris said she was “proud to have been part of the team” working on the framework.
“This framework is an essential resource for nurses to be in a position to provide the very best care today whilst also preparing the workforce to provide outstanding care in the future,” she said.
Ms Morris added: “Knowledge and skillset lie at the core of providing all aspects of cancer care.
“This framework provides agreed descriptors, capabilities and career pathways to give uniformity and guidance to individual nurses, organisations and the general public.
“The framework reflects the breadth of the modern cancer team and the requirements at each level of practice.”