Staffing shortages and need for education support reported in UK gynaecological clinician survey

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Published: 18 Jul 2018
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Dr Partha Sengupta - University Hospital of North Durham, Durham, UK

Dr Sengupta speaks with ecancer at BCGS 2018 about results from unit leads across the UK, surveying attitudes and resource availability.

He draws attention to staffing shortages as a problem facing many survey respondents, and the need for educational support from professional societies.

The BGCS is trying to get unit leads more involved in the cancer society. One of the things they’ve done is set up a session for the unit leads in the annual scientific meeting. So we did that in Glasgow and it seemed to be quite successful and they’ve done it again in London. I was pleased to say that the room was standing room only again, so it went well. I think the talks in the session were very good.

I presented the results of a survey which was done to the unit leads in the country; 38 people answered so it’s quite a good response. There are not that many unit leads, although there are quite a few people involved in the cancer diagnostic service, but unit leads are the ones responsible for liaising with central cancer multidisciplinary teams and for managing low grade and low risk endometrial cancers. One of the things that came out of the survey was that most unit leads feel that they don’t have enough resources to do their job, feel like a bit more training, and they’re concerned about the lack of cover for their services, for instance, nurse cover and cover for themselves when they’re away. Really it’s important that that’s sorted out because the government cancer targets are changing so the time to diagnose and treat a cancer is going to halve within the next couple of years. With the current climate we really need to find a way to make sure that the unit leads are well tasked to do their jobs.

Were there any further findings?

The main thing that they had was that they feel that their local hospitals aren’t supporting as much as they would like. They would like the British Gynae Cancer Society to give them support and perhaps some guidance. They’d like some more education for the unit leads and also possibly some more training. I know the British Gynae Cancer Society is looking at doing that in the future and it’s just the best way to deliver that. Really the focus of the government is about cancer diagnosis, so you get an early diagnosis of cancer. So it’s really important that the unit leads and their colleagues who work in the diagnostic facilities are able to do their job properly. For instance, there isn’t any real standard as to what should go on in a diagnostic clinic in gynaecology and I would hope that the British Gynae Cancer Society and NHS England would look at that in the future because it would help the unit leads in their discussions with local managers.

What other works are you involved in?

I’m the unit lead advisor for commissioning services for NHS England. Really although they’re focussing on the design of services, really they wanted to know from the unit leads’ point of view would this work. I’ll get my chance to put my little say in. I’m also contributing a little bit to the working groups on guidelines. But from my point of view I’m involved in training. In the Northeast of England we do cadaveric training for the registrars as part of their gynaecological surgical training which is well received and very popular. I’m one of the senior faculty members there. I’m involved in the national colposcopy training as part of a certification and training committee nationally. So all oncology related and all relevant to diagnostics.
As a unit there are a couple of trials we’re recruiting to which are to do with ovarian cysts. These are the sort of things that the unit leads need to do – recruiting as much as possible when they get the chance to the National Institute of Health research trials. Hopefully the BGCS can come up with some more trials which are relevant to the units as well.