The value of lung cancer nurses

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation (RCLCF) and the National Lung Cancer Forum for Nurses (NLCFN) worked together to develop a report which highlighted the difference lung cancer nurse specialists (LCNS) can make on the lives of people with lung cancer, as well as their families and carers.

Lung cancer nurse specialists are a vital support for people living with lung cancer
Lung cancer nurse specialists are a vital support for people living with lung cancer

Conducting a survey of lung cancer nurse specialists, people living with lung cancer and the carers of those living with lung cancer, it was our aim to understand people’s experiences of the care delivered by lung cancer nurse specialists.


  • Lung cancer nurse specialists should be involved in the pre-diagnostic phase of care of suspected patients with lung cancer to ensure patients are supported from initial presentation through investigations to diagnosis, to treatment and thereafter.
  • All national clinical guidelines on lung cancer treatment should reflect the important role played by lung cancer nurse specialists in the treatment of patients with lung cancer.
  • NHS commissioners and/or providers should ensure that there are sufficient numbers of LCNSs in place.
  • All patients should have equitable access to a LCNS at the time of diagnosis to guarantee that their physical, social and emotional needs.
  • LCNS posts should be protected, especially during times of financial austerity.
  • LCNSs should be provided with the necessary resources to give advice and support to help patients with lung cancer to stop smoking.
  • More research should be undertaken to understand the reasons for the correlation between nursing input and receipt of active treatment.
  • Nurse-led follow-up after treatment should be offered to all patients with lung cancer undergoing treatment.
  • LCNSs should be encouraged, and provided with the necessary resources, to offer all patients with lung cancer access to nurse-led clinics that improve their quality of life and functional capacity.
  • LCNSs should be recognised as the patient’s advocate at multidisciplinary team (MDT) meetings and be supported by the MDT to deliver patient-centred care that responds to the patient’s individual needs.
  • Patients with lung cancer should be able to access LCNS input at all stages of the lung cancer pathway, including towards the end of life.
Carol is living with lung cancer
Carol is living with lung cancer

My specialist nurse, Sam, has been very supporting and caring. She has referred me for complimentary therapy, where I had acupuncture to help ease pains in my feet. She also runs our lung cancer support group, funded by Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, which I find very inspiring.

Carol, living with lung cancer

As this report illustrates, LCNSs are essential to the delivery of high quality care and improved outcomes for patients with lung cancer. Posts must therefore be maintained and, where possible, the number of LCNSs increased so that all patients with lung cancer can have access to a LCNS.

Since undertaking this work, there have been subsequent research which provides further evidence demonstrating the value of lung cancer nurse specialists.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham and London South Bank University has found that people with lung cancer live longer and cope better with treatment when cared for by specialist nurses.

They also found that not only did patients have a lower risk of dying, but a lower risk of being admitted to hospital unnecessarily, demonstrating the pivotal role nurse specialists have on patients, families and the NHS as a whole.

Frustratingly, there are still far too many people who don’t have access to a lung cancer nurse specialist.

This included Alan Wiseman whose wife, Kay, feels Alan was not adequately cared for during his diagnosis. The absence of a lung cancer nurse specialist meant Kay and Alan received very little communication about his condition or treatment. This has made Alan’s death even harder for Kay to bear.

Alan did not have the support of a lung cancer nurse when his lung cancer came back
Alan did not have the support of a lung cancer nurse when his lung cancer came back

Heartbroken doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt and still feel. For me it wasn’t just losing Alan but it was the manner in which he died which haunts me.

Kay, after losing her husband Alan to lung cancer.

This is why our initial report, the subsequent research that follows and the National lung Cancer Audit annual report are so essential. They highlight the progress that have been made, whilst also providing vital evidence on areas that still need improvement.

Workforce in the NHS is a huge issue and needs immediate attention, if it is to meet the aims and objectives outlined in NHS England’s 10-year plan, but more importantly, if they are ensure everyone living with lung cancer receives the highest quality of care.