ECCO Position Statement

Cancer nursing – the potential to address workforce shortages (page 3 of 4)

Evidence from the European Commission RN4CAST project - part of EU Action Plan for the Health Workforce - shows that population ageing, coupled with increased focus on patient safety and quality of care (Sermeus et al. 2011), will increase the demand for healthcare, qualified health workforce and nurses in particular, whilst the supply of available nurses will actually reduce. (European Commission 2016)


Whereas the movement of nurses may have different degrees of relevance in different countries, studies point to the nursing profession as “the most numerous and increasingly mobile element of the health workforce” in Europe (Leone 2016). The mobility question is, therefore, relevant to all countries who wish to retain or recruit specialist cancer nurses.


Health workforce shortage is an important focus for EU policy makers, who have identified it as an area for enhanced cooperation such as through the Action Plan mentioned above, which includes a Joint Action on Health Workforce Planning & Forecasting, and organised exchange between experts on national health workforce strategies and data collection. 

In responding to the major health burden that is cancer, the oncology workforce in Europe must address increasing demand by optimising the contribution of each profession, in a multidisciplinary context, and in order to ensure the best possible patient outcomes. There may, for instance, be further scope for extending to more countries extended roles and responsibilities for certain aspects of patient care, such as the prescribing of medicines and investigations, to include nursing staff. This already occurs in some countries and underlines the need for appropriate recognition, preparation and education.


It is thus imperative that all available measures are taken to train and retain nurses with skills and competencies in cancer care, and that their professional mobility across Europe is facilitated to continue providing high quality care to an increasing number of patients.  


Specialisation can supplement the career paths available to nurses and contribute to attracting and retaining the best in the profession (ESNO 2015, Wagstaff 2015). 


By making a case for specialisation of cancer nurses across Europe, the RECaN project will help to raise awareness of the need to address nursing shortages and broader workforce shortages in the region. 

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

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.