ECCO Position Statement

Cancer nursing – an essential contributor to high quality cancer care through multidisciplinarity (page 2 of 4)

The specialist role of nurses in multi-disciplinary cancer care has been acknowledged by national (NHS England and Macmillan cancer Support 2010, RCSI 2010) as well as international bodies and professional associations (EONS 2012, ONS 2015), in relation to:

  • Leading, delivering and facilitating the co-ordination of care across the patient pathway within the multi-disciplinary team;  

  • Teaching others and act as role models for colleagues, in nursing and in other disciplines, seeking to promote the values of collaboration, creativity, care and commitment; ​

  • Promoting continuity of care and managing transitions between services. 


Nurses have also been recognised as fulfilling essential roles related specifically to patient-centred care, patient safety and enhancement of the quality of care: 

  • Responding effectively to patients' complex needs by promoting holistic and person-centred approaches to care and referring on to specialised care when needed (e.g. psycho-oncology services); ​

  • Developing and leading innovative supportive care services to meet the holistic needs of cancer patients; ​

  • Ensuring patient-centred quality and safety of care in relation to technologies and increasingly sophisticated treatment modalities.  

Specialist cancer nursing provision has been associated with improved patient knowledge and self-management (Corner et al. 2013) and marked improvement in patient symptoms (Rueda et al. 2011), while patient experience surveys in the UK have consistently identified the availability of a Clinical Nurse Specialist as the factor most likely to be associated with a good experience of cancer care (NHS England 2014). 

Thus, cancer nurses play an important and often varied role in caring for individuals diagnosed with cancer in order to provide the best possible care. Nurse-led interventions have been documented across a variety of cancer specialities (Tarnhuvud 2007, ESNO 2015, Beck 2016, CANO 2016). 

Page 2. Cancer nursing - an essential contributor to high quality cancer care through multidisciplinarity

Page 3. Cancer nursing - 
the potential to address workforce shortages

Page 4. Realising the potential of cancer nursing - the need for agreement on appropriate levels of education and professional recognition

The RECaN project sets to systematically review and consolidate the evidence available on the added value of specialised cancer nurses undertaking nurse-led interventions, with consideration of the various functions that nurses fulfil in multi-disciplinary cancer care.  Whereas previous reviews have synthesised the evidence for specific nurse-led interventions, RECaN is the first to focus on the impact of cancer nursing on patients’ experiences and outcomes across the spectrum of cancer. The second phase of the project will include documenting to what extent specialist cancer nursing roles are being regulated and the availability of specific educational requirements and opportunities in a group of contrasting countries. Ultimately, the project aims to produce benefit for all cancer patients by illustrating the full potential of cancer nursing as part of the multi-disciplinary team. Importantly this includes specialist cancer nursing input across all tumour types and phases of care. 

Conclusion and
key recommendations

Through the RECaN project, ECCO intends to support the following characteristics of contemporary cancer nursing: 


  • Cancer nurses are core members of the multi-disciplinary team; 

  • Cancer nursing should be a recognised speciality across Europe based on a mutually agreed educational curriculum; 

  • Education for specialist cancer nurses (across all tumour types and phases of care) should be made available;  

  • Enhanced free movement of cancer nurses across Europe should be promoted and facilitated to help address rising demand.