More specialist nurses to cope with breast cancer rise, charity warns

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A CHARITY has hit out at health chiefs after it was found that the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer has risen almost a fifth in a decade - but with no extra investment in nursing.

Breast Cancer Care, which runs a support group in Leeds, said the lack of specialist nurses was impacting on patient care.

New cases of breast cancer in England have risen 18 per cent, from 38,153 in 2003 to 44,831 in 2013. Wales and Scotland have also seen rises of around 20 per cent. Meanwhile, the number of specialist breast cancer nurses has remained around 430 across England since records began in 2007.

Breast Cancer Care said specialist nurses are vital for giving patients support from diagnosis to recovery.

Patients with access to a specialist nurse report significantly better treatment and care in the NHS cancer patient experience survey.

Samia al Qadhi, chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, said: “Breast cancer nurses do a fantastic job but they are under more and more pressure to provide the same quality of care with much less time, more responsibilities and many more patients.

“We welcome the Cancer Strategy recommendation that every cancer patient should have access to a specialist nurse, but the next step is how we make that a reality.

“We know NHS England’s budgets are tight, but as the number of breast cancer cases rises, action is needed to address this now.”

A spokeswoman for NHS England said decisions on numbers of clinical nurse specialists are the responsibility of individual hospitals, and overall staffing levels have been rising.

Cases set to double

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and is also the fastest rising cancer in women after lung cancer.

The number of people living with breast cancer is set to more than double from 691,000 at present to 1.7 million by 2040.

Although 78 per cent of women with breast cancer live for 10 years or more after diagnosis, there are still almost 12,000 deaths a year from the disease. The increasingly ageing population plus rising obesity and higher levels of alcohol intake are fuelling the rise in cases.

Find support at www.breastcancercare.org.uk