Contributing to guidelines on the importance of nursing in cancer care

Friday, 28 April 2017

Nursing in cancer care

Dr Verna Lavender, Senior Lecturer in Cancer Care at Oxford Brookes University has contributed to the development and production of new European guidelines championing the importance of nursing in cancer care.

The European CanCer Organisation (ECCO) has produced guidelines on the essential requirements for quality cancer care (ERQCC). These are checklists and explanations of organisation and actions that are necessary to give high-quality care to patients who have a specific tumour type; and are written by European experts representing all disciplines involved in cancer care.  

ERQCC papers give oncology teams, patients, policymakers and managers an overview of the elements needed in any healthcare system to provide high quality of care throughout the patient journey.  

Previously nursing has not been included in the ECCO’s cancer care policy documents; so inclusion of these guidelines about cancer nursing by Dr Lavender and ECCO member societies, is a significant step towards improvement of the care of a person with cancer across Europe.  

The new guidelines, published earlier this year in the January issue of Critical Reviews in Oncology and Haematology, specifically look at care for adults with sarcoma, cancer of the bone and soft tissue. They are rare, but all rare cancers make up more than 20 per cent of cancers in Europe and there are substantial inequalities in access to high quality care.  

Working on these guidelines was challenging, particularly to reach consensus between different professional societies, but the result is a truly multidisciplinary document, and central to the essence of quality cancer care is multidisciplinary team working. The inclusion of the section I wrote on cancer nursing sets a precedent for future ECCO ERQCC guidelines.

Dr Verna Lavender, Oxford Brookes University

After winning the Excellence in Cancer Research award from Royal College of Nursing in May 2016 for research with young people with bone sarcoma, Dr Lavender represented the European Oncology Nursing Society to contribute to the development and production of these ground breaking guidelines.  

The essential requirements identified include the requirement that high-quality care must only be carried out in specialised sarcoma centres (including paediatric cancer centres), which have both a core multidisciplinary team and an extended team of allied professionals, and which are subject to quality and audit procedures. Access to such units is far from universal in all European countries.  

Dr Lavender said: “Working on these guidelines was challenging, particularly to reach consensus between different professional societies, but the result is a truly multidisciplinary document, and central to the essence of quality cancer care is multidisciplinary team working. The inclusion of the section I wrote on cancer nursing sets a precedent for future ECCO ERQCC guidelines.  

“In order to meet the European aspirations for high quality comprehensive cancer control and improve survival and quality of life for patients, it is essential that healthcare organisations implement these requirements, particularly those relating to multidisciplinary and patient-centred pathways from diagnosis, through treatment and follow-up or end of life care.”  

The guidelines were presented at the ECCO Congress 2017 at the end of January in Amsterdam. ECCO have called for the guidelines to be implemented across Europe and lobbied EU commissioners and ministers at Congress to support their implementation.   

Dr Verna Lavender has written about her experiences of working on project in the British Journal of Nursing and was recently interviewed by the European Oncology Nursing Society about her involvement with producing the ECCO guidelines.