London is suffering the worst nurse staffing crisis in England, NHS Digital’s latest figures show. Macmillan Cancer Support is investing £6m in 2022 alone for new roles to ensure the needs of cancer patients in the capital are met.
Macmillan analysis reveals that there is a shortfall of 9,494 nurses across London, which totals 12.8% of the nursing workforce[i]. The nurse vacancies are higher than any other NHS England region[ii]. But also, with 26,000 general NHS staff vacancies, London has the highest vacancy rate in England (10.9%).
The shortage of frontline nursing and general NHS staff can undermine the quality of care and lead to longer delays not just for cancer patients but for all patients. Macmillan would like to see good quality cancer care that is holistic and addresses more than just the medical effects of the disease.
That’s why Macmillan wants to provide all cancer patients with an assessment about their physical, emotional, financial, or practical concerns to understand their needs, triggering a tailor-made care plan which will direct them to expert support and information. Macmillan also believes and invests in new roles such as the support worker who can help patients access timely and useful information to them.
As well as the emotional, financial and practical aspects of cancer, Macmillan knows that many patients are left with long-term after-treatment effects that have a huge impact on health, wellbeing and independence. In fact, one in three people are still struggling with their physical wellbeing such as incontinence, difficulty eating or breathlessness up to two years after treatment[iv]. So, it is important to have enough dedicated professionals to deal with the whole person and not just their disease.
Kiwi Patel, 40, from West London was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was 31 and knows from experience the enormous difference it can make if a cancer patient is treated as more than just their diagnosis. He said:
“Cancer is an enormous learning curve from day one – there are so many aspects to it. Everyone’s different but for me it really affected my mental health. I contacted Macmillan and they actually just listened and helped me to deal with all those emotions. They also helped me know what rights I had regarding my employer and their legal responsibilities.
It’s a complete minefield but Macmillan really helped me to process everything because they used layman’s terms and that made it easier.
“I think it’s really important when dealing with people at their most vulnerable to look past the condition and treat them as an individual. There is a saying[v] that when you treat a disease, you either win or lose but when you treat a person it doesn’t matter what the outcome is – you’ll always be successful.”
Emma Tingley, Macmillan Head of Partnerships in London, said:
“Cancer affects people in so many ways. It can hit every aspect of life from not being able to afford rent to not finding the energy to make meals. It has an impact on people’s emotional wellbeing and all too often people don’t know where to turn for help. Cancer patients should have their concerns heard through a tailor-made assessment from the point of diagnosis.
“Chronic nurse shortages in London are the highest in England and prevent cancer patients from having their emotional, financial, and practical concerns heard and addressed. Macmillan continues to support NHS staff and people with cancer as much as possible and is currently investing £6 million across the capital to fund new roles and services to help stop cancer patients falling through the cracks.
“Now it is up to the Government to invest in a fully costed cancer workforce strategy to ensure the right workforce, size and skills mix are available. Finally, increased funding is needed to provide succession planning for nurses to become cancer specialists. This is the only way to ensure that the individual needs of people with cancer are met.”