Patients experience better care at hospitals with more specialist nurses

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer patients report a better experience of care at hospitals where there are more specialist nurses.

Patients at such hospitals were more likely to say they received sufficient emotional support during treatment, according to a study published in the Journal of Health Services Research and Policy.

Those at hospitals with more specialist nurses were also more likely to report that the people treating and caring for them worked well together, found researchers at the University of Southampton.

The study provides the first evidence of a link between employing more specialist nurses and measurable benefits to patients' quality of life, said study author Peter Griffiths, professor of health services research at the University of Southampton.

"Cancer and its treatment can place a huge burden, both physical and psychological, on patients," professor Griffiths added.

"Supporting people with cancer on the journey from diagnosis to treatment and beyond, which for increasing numbers includes long-term survival, is a key challenge for health services."

Specialist nurses play a vital role in providing support to cancer patients and their number has increased across the NHS in recent decades, Professor Griffiths said.

But he warned that the current strain on NHS funding meant there is no guarantee such posts will continue to exist in the future.

Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, agreed. "Studies like this which demonstrate the value of patients having access to specialist nurses and well-staffed hospitals are extremely important," he said.

"Although it would seem like a truism that having access to these resources would give patients an improved experience of care, specialist nurse posts are an easy target for trusts when they are asked to save money."

The study examined existing data from the 2010 National Cancer Patient Experience Survey, with analysis revealing small but significant differences in experiences of care.

"The absolute differences we see are small but if your odds of receiving good emotional support are increased by 15 per cent, I suspect most of us would take it if we were being treated for cancer," Professor Griffiths said.

Copyright Press Association 2013

References

  • Griffiths P., Simon M., Richardson A. & Corner J. (2013). Is a larger specialist nurse workforce in cancer care associated with better patient experience? Cross-sectional study, Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, 18 (1 Suppl) 39-46. DOI: