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Countdown to London 2020 – Episode 3 ‘Birth of Acute Oncology”

Hello Readers,

Good to be writing the third installment of my blog in the run-up to ICCN 2020 in London between 29 March and 1 April, 2020. The UK Oncology Nursing Society (UKONS) will be partnering with ISNCC in hosting the International Conference on Cancer Nursing.

As cancer nurses from across the world register for this great event, I thought I would give a flavor for what UK oncology nursing has been focusing on over the last few years. The area of practice I want to explore in this blog is the birth of Acute Oncology (AO) as a specialist area of practice in its own right and how AO services have developed since 2008.

“AO concentrates on the care of patients with a cancer diagnosis who are brought into hospitals via emergency services. AO services were developed as patients admitted with acute symptoms of their disease and/or side effects of cancer treatments did not always receive timely and appropriate emergency care. The duration of time that patients were in hospital was also longer than predicted if their condition had been treated more urgently.”

All hospitals under public ownership in the UK now have to provide an AO team – specialist cancer clinicians, generally a mix of doctors and specialist nurses, who review patients within 24-hours of referral and advice on their care. There are also national guidelines to advise staff working in emergency services and acute medicine about the management of patients admitted with acute symptoms of their disease and/or side effects. This has reduced treatment delays and improved patient outcomes.

In addition to the patient groups described above, the AO service also manages the care of patients who receive a new cancer diagnosis as a result of emergency admission. The overall survival in this cohort of patients is poorer than those diagnosed by referral from their general practitioner or cancer screening services. They tend to be older people, have more advanced disease and are more likely to have upper gastrointestinal or lung cancers. Any improvements AO services make to their management are likely to have a positive impact.

Led by Philippa Jones, the UK Oncology Nursing Society has developed guideline documents to support the development of AO services. The first of these was the ‘UKONS 24 hour Rapid Assessment Triage Tool’, which can be used by clinicians to assist in the assessment of patients who telephone with cancer-related issues. This allows appropriately trained nurses to advise them whether or not to attend hospital as an emergency. Another UKONS guideline is the ‘Acute Oncology Initial Management Guide’, which provides guidance on managing patients that are treated-for a cancer-related condition in emergency or AO services.

In an exciting development, I can reveal that ICCN 2020 conference delegates can register to attend the free UKONS Pre-Conference Program on 28 March 2020. This full-day session is entitled ‘Standardising Systemic Anti-Cancer Therapy and Acute Oncology’ and will focus on the standardization of cancer services, illustrating how guidelines including those for AO services have been implemented. Keep an eye on the ISNCC website for more details.

The ‘AO Initial Management Guidelines’ can be viewed by clicking here.

Goodbye until next month!

Mark is a regular contributor in the lead up to the International Conference on Cancer Nursing (ICCN 2020) in London, commencing 29 March – 1 April, 2020. #ICCN2020

Mark is a nurse consultant and Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, UK. He is UKONS Board Member and is very enthusiastic about improving cancer nurse education.