This shortage of cancer nurses is national emergency – Lynda Thomas

CORONAVIRUS is continuing to deliver a devastating blow to cancer care that was already over-stretched before the pandemic.

Macmillan chief executive Lynda Thomas says urgent action is needed to tackle a national shortage of cancer nurses and specialists.

Good cancer care is a lifeline, not a luxury, and staff shortages mean exhausted nurses are struggling to deliver vital care in ever worsening conditions.

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Every day across Yorkshire, cancer nurses are being put under immense and growing strain in a healthcare system which was already at breaking point even before any of us had heard of coronavirus.

Macmillan chief executive Lynda Thomas says urgent action is needed to tackle a national shortage of cancer nurses and specialists.

The number of people diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK is estimated to rise by 16 per cent to 480,000 in 2030, this crisis is only set to deepen over the coming months and years.

Macmillan’s new report Cancer Nursing On The Line brings into stark focus the alarming impact of ongoing nursing shortages on cancer patient care.

We found that over half a million people with cancer in the UK were left feeling unsupported after their diagnosis, and experienced at least one potentially serious medical implication as a result of this.

Hearing a diagnosis of cancer is life shattering and more than 50 per cent of people, who don’t get the support they need, experience depression or anxiety as a direct result of their diagnosis.

Lynda Thomas is chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support.

They are more than twice as likely to have doubts about whether it’s even worth having treatment at all, and distressingly, these patients are four times more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

At Macmillan, we estimate that more than 3,000 additional cancer nurses are needed in England alone to ensure cancer patients get the care and support they need.

Not only would a fully resourced specialist nursing workforce help save and improve patients’ lives, it would reduce pressure on, and could also create savings for, the NHS as it struggles to cope with the impact of Covid-19.

We are facing a ticking time bomb here in Yorkshire.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is being urged to provide extra support for cancer care.

Rishi Sunak’s own constituency in North Yorkshire is part of a Cancer Alliance with the highest percentage of specialist cancer nurses aged 50 or over in England (54 per cent).

As many of these specialists are nearing retirement age, we risk losing this group of expert nurses with no plan to address how we’re going to replace this group of professionals.

We have heard from nurses across the region who are choosing to leave nursing earlier than expected – the last year has taken a huge toll on our NHS workforce, the huge amount of pressure they’ve been under with the unspeakably difficult circumstances of the last 18 months have left our workforce exhausted and no longer able to run on empty.

We urgently need the Chancellor to acknowledge and address this huge issue affecting the workforce here in Yorkshire; he must ensure there are enough expert staff to provide patients with the quality of care they need and deserve.

What the cancer care workforce in Yorkshire need is investment and they urgently need it now. Macmillan are calling on the Government to create a ringfenced Cancer Nurse Fund of £124m to train an extra 3,371 specialist cancer nurses in England at the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.

In short, we need to double the number of cancer nurses by 2030 to provide the individual and targeted personalised care that people living cancer were promised.

Without this, the Government risks failing on commitments to treat cancer quickly and appropriately, leaving thousands of patients across the region struggling to access their cancer care.

People living with cancer and our NHS workforce don’t need warm words of thanks or sympathy from governments. They need action.

We need to see urgent commitments to address the shocking shortfall in cancer nurses. If governments fail to rebuild cancer services, all of us will pay the price when we or our families face a cancer diagnosis.

At Macmillan we’re doing whatever it takes to support people living with cancer across Yorkshire, we simply would not be able to do this without the continued backing of our generous supporters, supporters who we need now more than ever.

With our flagship fundraising event Coffee Morning event just around the corner on Friday, September 24, we hope that people across Yorkshire will get involved so we can continue to be there for people with cancer when they need us the most.

* Find out more and sign up to host a Macmillan Coffee Morning at coffeeregister.macmillan.org.uk

* Anyone in need of cancer support can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, which is open 7 days a week, 8am-8pm, or visit Macmillan’s Online Community. Those who are experiencing cancer symptoms should contact their GP as a matter of urgency.

*Macmillan is funded almost entirely by donations and simply cannot support the growing number of people who need us without your help. Do something amazing today and visit macmillan.org.uk/getinvolved or call 0300 1000 200.

Lynda Thomas is chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support.

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