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12 August 2021

Being assigned a clinical nurse specialist is associated with better experiences of cancer care, research finds

Cancer patients assigned a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) are more likely to report better care experiences across several important aspects of the cancer care pathway.

clinical nurse specialist

In cancer care, CNS provide physical and emotional support to patients, coordinate care services, and ensure high-quality information is provided to patients.

The study, a collaboration between researchers from King’s College London and Public Health England (PHE), aimed to examine whether being given the name of a CNS is associated with better cancer patients’ experiences across different points along their cancer care pathway.

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

Findings demonstrate that patients who were assigned a CNS and were given their name were more likely to report better care experiences with being 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.

Lead author, Dr Saleh Alessy, 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.

Dr Saleh Alessy, School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences

These findings can be used by cancer policymakers, charities, cancer services and patient representatives as evidence of the significant role CNS play in the care pathway. Future research should focus on determining how to ensure equity of access to CNS care and the impact of COVID-19 on patients’ experiences with CNS as reported in the recent CPES.

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 project was supervised by Dr Elizabeth Davies and Dr Margreet Lüchtenborg.

Read the full article: Being assigned a clinical nurse specialist is associated with better experiences of cancer care: English population-based study using the linked National Cancer Patient Experience Survey and Cancer Registration Dataset

In this story

Elizabeth Davies

Clinical Reader in Cancer and Public Health

Margreet Lüchtenborg

Lecturer in Cancer Epidemiology