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Northern Ireland's nurse specialists 'need more access to cancer patients'


Simon Clarke from Armagh took part in the survey

Simon Clarke from Armagh took part in the survey

Simon Clarke from Armagh took part in the survey

Patients battling cancer must have improved access to clinical nurse specialists across Northern Ireland, a leading charity has said.

Macmillan Cancer Support made the call following the results of a new joint report also involving the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Health and Social Care Board (HSC Board).

The 2014-15 Cancer Patient Experience Survey (CPES) showed that nine out of 10 cancer patients said their overall experience during treatment was either excellent or good. But a number of key areas were identified that needed improved. This included:

• Being given the name of a clinical nurse specialist (CNS);

• Being given easy-to-understand written information in advance about a hospital operation;

• Information on financial help and benefits for patients.

Of more than 3,200 patients who responded to the survey, 92% in Northern Ireland said their overall care was excellent or very good. In England, when the survey was undertaken in 2014, it was 89%. Simon Clarke from Armagh, who was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in 2013, was involved in the survey.

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The 49-year-old father-of-two said: "I suggested having a volunteer in the chemotherapy suite so that patients could ask the sort of questions they might feel silly asking consultants and staff. People don't always say what's on their mind. They might be embarrassed. No one's worried about looking stupid in front of me."

He added: "It doesn't surprise me that the overall rate of satisfaction in this survey is so high. Particularly when it comes to having access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist as your key point of contact. I know first-hand that these nurses make a real difference to how patients feel supported."

Heather Monteverde, head of Macmillan Services in Northern Ireland, said: "Having a CNS is the single most important factor associated with high patient scores."

The survey comes as concern grows over escalating cancer waiting times. Latest figures reveal that 63,028 patients are now waiting up to six weeks, while those waiting between six and nine weeks add up to 20,192.

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