Exploring distribution of the adult cancer nursing workforce in England


Session type:

Georgina Smerald1,Rachel White1,Jacqueline Goodchild1
1Macmillan Cancer Support



Analysis of the Cancer Patient Experience Survey (CPES) in England has emphasised the importance of integration of care between healthcare professionals. Research has shown that Clinical Nurse Specialists can play an important role in ensuring all care providers of cancer, work well together to improve patient experience. In 2017, Macmillan commissioned a census of the cancer nursing workforce in England to improve understanding of the size, shape and location to the cancer workforce.


The 2017 census used a similar methodology to the 2014 census which was based on the NCAT censuses in England. Data was collected through an excel based tool which was completed by each hospital trust. The census in 2017 collected data on Cancer Specialist Nurses, specialist Chemotherapy Nurses, Specialist Palliative Care Nurses working in cancer and Cancer Support Workers. The census was carried out by Quality Health.


Analysis of the census data shows that hospital trusts who have a cancer nursing workforce have on average 28 WTE Specialist Cancer Nurses, 22 Specialist Chemotherapy Nurses, 6 Support Workers and 8 Specialist Palliative Care Nurses supporting patients with cancer per trust. A significant proportion of the cancer nursing workforce (40%) is concentrated in the top 20% of hospitals trusts. This is similar for support workers where half (52%) work in just 10% hospital who completed the census.


Having the right mix of specialist nurses and support workers is a key element for delivering high quality care. However, this is likely to vary between the small number of large hospital trusts that have large teams of support workers and most hospitals that have 5 or fewer cancer support workers. The differences in the size of the workforce is likely to have implications for the delivery and experience of cancer care.