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Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Capability Framework

Project update.

We are pleased to confirm that the research phase of the project is now complete.

Click here to download a summary of key findings and recommendations

Click here to download the full research report

Introduction

The North West Cancer Alliances and Health Education England (HEE) have commissioned Skills for Health to support the update of a Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) capability framework and to support its implementation. The project is scheduled to run through to autumn 2022.

Background

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 RCN/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.

Project delivery

The project is 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 an updated cancer CNS capability and career framework embedding the findings of the phase 1 research with an updated RCN/UKONS framework.  Further activities will support implementation of the framework as part of the National ACCEND career and education development programme.  The aim is to 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.

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