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Improving support and care for secondary breast cancer

Catherine Priestley

This is the second blog in a series on how National Voices members are enabling person-centred care. Catherine Priestley, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Care shares how a new toolkit is helping specialist nurses provide holistic support to people with secondary breast cancer.

  • Person-centred care

A need for change

For over a decade Breast Cancer Care has campaigned to improve the care and treatment for people with secondary (metastatic) breast cancer, which occurs when breast cancer cells spread from the first (primary) cancer in the breast to other parts of the body and becomes incurable. We believe there is a clear need for specialised support to manage the complex physical and emotional effects of this disease, yet people diagnosed with secondary breast cancer frequently tell us support is not always available. Breast Cancer Care believes that specialist nurses, with the right skills, knowledge and expertise, are best placed to ensure these patients have a good experience of care.

Developing a nursing toolkit

Through our interaction with nurses within Breast Cancer Care’s services, we know that there is a strong desire to improve services currently provided by NHS Trusts for these patients. After identifying the gaps in treatment, care and support for people living with the disease, Breast Cancer Care published the Secondary Breast Cancer Nursing Toolkit, which has been updated as an online resource for 2019. This has been developed in response to feedback from the members of our Secondary Breast Cancer Nursing Group, which is designed to bring together nurses working with people with secondary breast cancer, and enables them to share expertise and influence positive changes in patient care.

Supporting nurses to improve care

The toolkit aims to help nursing teams improve the specialist support they provide for their patients, and ultimately ensure people with secondary breast cancer receive the best care they need to live well. Designed to be a dynamic resource that can be added to, the toolkit covers a range of issues for any nurse who wants to improve care for this patient group, particularly focusing on practical guidance to help nursing teams develop their services. Alongside a number of time saving resources and templates, there’s also access to real examples, case studies and innovative strategies from nurses in current practice.

Furthermore, the toolkit supports nurses’ professional development by setting out how to develop personal knowledge and skills relevant to their role supporting people with secondary breast cancer. This includes how to develop the ability to support patients to make decisions relating to their treatment and care, as well as enabling patients to develop a self-management approach to their care.

We’ve had a lot of positive feedback about how the toolkit has helped nurses to improve the support they give people with secondary breast cancer. One nurse said:

“At one particular meeting there was a lot discussion about problems and solutions others had to ensuring all patients were seen and supported. Many of the nurses had different ways of doing this and I picked out several to try and used the toolkit. As a result, I now have a more robust way of ensuring patients’ needs are met in a more efficient way.”

Clinical Nurse Specialist, Breast Care, York

With this toolkit, we want to continue to support specialist nurses who want to improve services, to ensure everyone affected by secondary breast cancer receives the standard of specialist nursing support they deserve to improve their wellbeing and quality of life. You can view the toolkit here.