An introduction to cancer workforce

Cancer care is one of the national Five Year Forward View’s key priorities - focusing on:

  • Prevention 
  • Earlier diagnosis 
  • Better treatment 
  • Personalised care 
  • Support for people living with and beyond cancer.

Having access to more skilled staff in the right areas will be key to delivering on this strategy.

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The Cancer Workforce Plan

The Cancer Workforce Plan was published in 2018 and was developed in partnership with NHS England and national Five Year Forward partners. It set out a delivery plan to enable the NHS in England to have the right numbers of skilled staff to provide high quality care and services to cancer patients at each stage in their care pathway. Progress with the Cancer Workforce Plan can be found on the Health Education England website

Supporting delivery of the plan at a local level:

Health Education England (HEE) has funding to support development of the cancer workforce in the East of England. The funding has been provided to the East of England Cancer Alliances as part of the national Cancer Investment Plan, and will be used to implement HEE’s Cancer Workforce Plan in the East of England. It is expected that the Cancer Alliances will implement the plan in partnership with the local integrated care systems (ICSs). This work links to implementation of the People Plan in local ICSs.

Cancer Alliances Workforce Group:

Health Education England (HEE) and the East of England Cancer Alliances have also convened a Cancer Alliances Workforce Group.

This group has been established to:

  • Support the delivery of the Cancer Alliances' strategic cancer workforce priorities (detailed below)
  • Ensure funding from Health Education England (HEE) is spent in an effective manner
  • Fulfil the Cancer Workforce Plan in the East of England.

The advisory group meets bi-monthly to ensure timely progression of the work plan. If you are interested in joining, please contact:  england.eoecancerallianceteam@nhs.net.

Strategic cancer workforce priorities

The workforce priorities of the East of England Cancer Alliances are outlined below:

  • Work with HEE and local systems to take up available training opportunities for: reporting radiographers, CNS training grants, chemotherapy nurse training grants, and biomedical scientist placements.
  • Work with HEE and local systems to recruit and retain clinical nurse specialists and cancer support workers
  • Effectively recruit/deploy cancer volunteers to support service delivery and improve patient experience
  • Support local oncology services to identify and share skill mix best practice
  • Embed cancer adopt and adapt best practice, including deploying cancer pathway navigators
  • Identify COVID-19 best practice and share via effective routes including monthly workforce working group meetings
  • Working with local systems to support take up of NHS England’s staff wellbeing offer.

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Projects to date:

The East of England Cancer Alliances and Health Education England (HEE) have supported several projects to inform the work of the Cancer Alliances Workforce Group. The East Of England Cancer Alliances and HEE jointly commissioned GE Associates to carry out a baselining of the current position for the cancer workforce across the constituent systems in the East of England. The individual systems are now progressing with this work locally. 

Following this work, the Cancer Alliances identified that cancer nursing, in particular the clinical nurse specialist role was a priority area and so there has been a further project to develop a toolkit to support hospitals and systems to redesign their cancer nursing workforce. Information about the clinical nurse specialist role and the tools available can be accessed here.

Funding for training and education

Health Education England (HEE) also work in partnership with the Cancer Alliances and local systems to distribute national funding for training and education for the workforce. We know that some key parts of the cancer workforce are under pressure now and with cancer prevalence set to increase, unless we take action we may not have enough staff with the right skills to deliver the Cancer Taskforce Strategy. 

HEE aims to support providers and systems to have enough staff with the right skills to deliver the care required. This is not just about increasing numbers, but also about supporting staff to develop new skills and enable them to work more effectively. 

HEE funds many diagnostics initiatives and projects as part of the 'Cancer and Diagnostics Programme'. Supporting development of the (primarily) non-medical diagnostics workforces in order to reduce waiting times and increase the likelihood of early diagnosis - leading to better care and outcomes for patients. Initiatives include for example, clinical nurse specialist upskilling, the clinical endoscopist training programme, and promoting the role of allied health professionals in multidisciplinary teams to name a few. ​​​​​​

Scientific and technological expertise and innovations offer the potential to transform our ability in preventing and diagnosing cancer, and in the treatment and care of patients. ​​​​​​To find out more, please click here

If you are interested in undertaking any HEE funded training, please discuss this with your line manager in the first instance. They will assess the need based on your request, service need, job plan, support required, etc and will contact your organisation’s cancer workforce lead for further information.