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Women with incurable breast cancer receiving insufficient care

Three quarters of hospitals do not have enough specialist nurses to provide sufficient care

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 21 April 2017

Three quarters (76%) of NHS trusts and health boards say that they do not have enough specialist nursing care for people with incurable secondary breast cancer, a survey by a breast cancer charity has found.

The survey of 155 NHS trusts and health boards by Breast Cancer Care found that 42% of organisations surveyed do not provide specialist nursing care for people with incurable breast cancer, in stark comparison to the majority (95%) of people with primary breast cancer having a named clinical nurse specialist for support.

This is despite half (49%) of NHS trusts and health boards saying a main benefit of specialist nursing is reducing lengthy periods in hospital – often unnecessary if symptoms and treatment are managed well – saving the NHS money by freeing up beds.

The survey also found many breast cancer nurses caring for people with incurable breast cancer feel ill-equipped to meet their needs.

Samia al Qadhi, chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, said: “These findings highlight the worrying truth – care for people with incurable secondary breast cancer is not good enough. Our survey revealed nurses often lack crucial training to coordinate the complex care and treatment, help people manage often debilitating pain or have conversations about dying.

“And it is outrageous that even though specialist nursing can dramatically improve quality of life for women and men with incurable breast cancer, so many do not have a nurse they can count on for essential support. Our tailored and trustworthy support services are vital to help women and men live their lives now but it’s clear that urgent improvements to care are needed.

“We are calling on NHS clinical commissioning groups and health boards to ensure specialist nursing care is available for all patients with incurable breast cancer and that the right breast cancer services are in place in their hospitals to meet patient needs. Only then will everyone living with incurable breast cancer get the care and support they need.”

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