The Cancer in the Community course is funded by Health Education England and designed for registered nurses working in community settings. It aims to develop their knowledge of cancer prevention, screening, early diagnosis, treatment and treatment toxicities, as well as providing an understanding of the needs of people living with cancer as a long-term condition. The Transforming Cancer Services Team, (TCST) are collaborating with Central London Community Health to develop the content and support their delivery of the course, following a very successful pilot in South West London.
The course content is carefully tailored to meet the needs of community nurses, as we recognise they are seeing this group of patients at different stages in their cancer journey. The course covers the following key topics:
• Screening and early diagnosis
• Treatment toxicity and acute oncological emergencies
• Living beyond cancer and personalised care (including case scenarios)
It also involves an innovative virtual placement day where learning is built around patient case studies and supported by peer learning. A small group of patient partners shared their patient stories and contribute to an interactive Q and A session on the final day.
To date, the evaluation so far has been very positive and nurses are recommending the course to their colleagues and peers. District nurses, community staff nurses, specialist nurses, learning disability nurses and general practice nurses have been represented in the first two cohorts and the third cohort began in June 2022. The participants have welcomed the opportunity to work together and think about how they can collectively improve patient care.
Early evaluation findings provide evidence of improved confidence to talk about cancer with patients, as well as improved knowledge improving care and patient safety.
The following themes have emerged from the pilot and subsequent cohorts;
1. Lack of information is a barrier to providing good care
“We don’t often get the medical history, it’s more what they want us to do”
2.Knowledge improves confidence to support a patient holistically
“Sometimes we’re doing wound care because they want to be healed quick because they’re waiting to start chemotherapy, that sort of patient, you go in to do wound care and they are waiting to start, they’re anxious but before I wouldn’t really know anything about chemotherapy to talk to them about it”
3.Community nurses feel that education on cancer as a long-term condition is relevant to their work
“I’ve learnt a lot and I feel it’s a very useful programme and I hope you carry on providing this service in the future, I think all nurse should have the opportunity to come on this course and especially go on the wards, to actually physically go there”
4. Attending the module has inspired changes to practice
“I have learned a lot of things and I have been able to put some of the learning in practice last week I was able to call an ambulance for a patient and that was a positive thing ( neutropenic sepsis). So moving forward there is nothing I want to change about this course, it is well structured and well done”
The project steering group is currently working with partners to share the learning from the work regionally and nationally. The project was shared at the National UK Oncology Professional Care Conference in May 2022 and the project team is now exploring the feasibility of adapting the content to meet the needs of social care nurses.
A one day conference is planned later in the year, to bring together all the four cohorts to learn and the existing Cancer Community of Practice for General practice nurses, to network and build a larger group that will provide ongoing opportunities to learn, develop practice and provide a primary care nursing voice in cancer care.