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Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Capability Framework


The North West Cancer Alliances and Health Education England (HEE) have commissioned Skills for Health to develop a Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) capability framework in the North West to inform the development of a national framework. The project is scheduled to run throughout 2021, leading to a launch of the framework in early 2022.


There are several National drivers behind this work including the National Cancer Workforce Plan (HEE, 2017), the NHS Long Term Plan (NHS England, 2019), and the recently published NHS England People Plan for 2020/21, all of which include ambitions to grow the nursing workforce by increasing the supply, resilience, and capabilities to enable the NHS to keep pace with rising demand.

Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) make significant contributions to a positive overall patient experience and outcomes. Pre-Covid there was a rising shortage in the cancer CNS workforce against a backdrop of continuing increase in demand. With further redeployment due to Covid and the development of newer roles, there is a risk of the Cancer CNS role being eroded and devalued.

There is currently no nationally agreed Cancer CNS capability framework or defined route for a nurse to become a CNS – and inconsistent job titles, roles, and expectations. This work will build on existing frameworks including UKONS, Macmillan, and the work led by the East of England Cancer Alliance with GE Healthcare.

Purpose and scope of the framework

The framework will provide a standard and greater clarity on the Cancer CNS scope of practice and the required skills, knowledge, and behaviours. It will provide improved recognition for this area of practice including clearer routes for entry and for career progression.

This pilot, therefore, supports North West cancer recovery plans for Covid-19 by:

  • Improving recruitment and retention of cancer CNS to deal with the increasing demand.
  • Improving patient experience, and timely patient diagnosis, and reducing variation in access.
  • Demonstrating the added value of the role to commissioners and providers.

Development of the framework

The project will be approached in two phases:

Phase 1 – Research to review current roles and responsibilities of the cancer CNS workforce, and to capture individual opinions about changes necessary to enable cancer CNS to perform their role more effectively e.g. what the future cancer CNS should look like and capabilities of the role.

Phase 2 – Development of a cancer CNS capability and career framework based on the capabilities identified during phase 1.

The project will be guided by a steering group representing North West Cancer Alliances, Health Education England and other key stakeholders.

A wider reference group will also include a more diverse range of organisations and individuals from across England that wish to be updated on the project and to provide comments or feedback on the draft framework as part of a consultation process.

Register to be involved

To register your interest please complete the form below. Later in 2021, you will then be invited to take part in an online survey to provide feedback on the draft framework.

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