Exploring the Role of Key Workers in Cancer Care: Patient and Staff Perspectives

Jonathan Ling, Karen McCabe, Sue Brent, Ann Crosland, Lynda Karen Brierley-Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose/Aims: The key worker role in cancer services was established in England to improve the continuity of care for patients. We examined how the role has been implemented by clinical nurse specialists, and how both cancer patients and nursing staff viewed its effectiveness in order to inform debate about the transfer of patients between clinical nurse specialists during cancer care
Design: This study was questionnaire-based, with separate surveys developed for patients and staff.
Method: Questionnaires explored issues including implementation of the key worker role, modifications to it, and where the role was felt to have most impact. Questionnaires were completed by 101 staff and 46 patients. Data were analysed descriptively.
Results: Perspectives on the key worker role differed between nursing staff respondents and patient respondents. Overall, patient respondents were very positive while staff respondents were less so. A key difference related to patient handover: 71% of patient respondents wanted the same key worker throughout their treatment but only 28% of staff respondents did. Staff respondents wanted more training to clarify the role.
Conclusions: Continuity of care through an assigned key worker was highly valued by patients. Successful implementation could be better achieved through improved communication with both nursing staff and allied health professions. Where possible, cancer patients should be assigned a dedicated key worker at initial diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-260
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Nurse Specialist
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • cancer, clinical nurse specilist, continuity of care, key worker, nursing, patients

Cite this