UKONS Conference 2022: a great success

1 December 2022

I think it is worth looking back at the high points of our recent conference in Belfast in order to celebrate the enthusiasm of all concerned; but also to see what we can learn as we look forward to our 2023 conference in Newport, South Wales. It is sobering to think the UKONS board have our first meeting to discuss #UKONS2023 next week and we will be meeting in the ICC Wales to check out the layout and facilities!

UKONS Belfast 2022 was our largest and best-attended conference to date and we are indebted to all of our members who turned out in force to support it, particularly as Belfast is a long way to travel for many. A matter of great pride to UKONS was the number of posters submitted, with around an additional 50 posters coming through to us compared to recent years. It is worth noting the very high quality of these. To my mind, the posters are the heart of the conference, highlighting UK oncology nurses work over the previous years. I would also like, at this point, to highlight the prize winners with Ali Hodge from University Hospital Sussex taking first place for her work on immunotherapy toxicity and Kirsten Jackson achieving first place in the young and early career cancer nurse’s category with her poster ‘Project QR - it's all in the code’. It was great to be able to encourage novice presenters this year by funding some places for successful submissions.

The first day opened with a keynote presentation from Heather Monteverde who presented an honest and inspiring appraisal of her vision for cancer nursing in Northern Ireland. This was followed by an equally arresting and engaging presentation from Professor Jo Armes discussing her research on the experiences of people with cancer, and those who care for them, who are diagnosed in prison. This shone a welcome spotlight on a poorly understood aspect of cancer care.

Once again, the breakout sessions focusing on oral presentations from selected poster submissions showed the breadth of expertise that UKONS draws on, with digital, and other, innovations from cancer nursing practice showcased from supportive care, acute care and in promoting high quality communication with our patients.

The UKONS AGM was well attended and it was good to be able to present the work carried out by our Members Interest Groups (MIGs) and our board on behalf of our membership. The AGM shows an organisation in good health following the uncertainty of the COVID pandemic. I believe we will need to increase the time needed for our AGM in future years simply to represent the work carried out by the MIGs.

The academic programme closed on day 1 with our debate covering the relative merits of carrying out consultations, in person, by telephone or via digital technology. This session balances fun debate with an underlying serious assessment of an important issue, and I think that our presenters, Jo Armes, Elaine Tomlins and the victorious Philippa Jones rose to the occasion brilliantly.

The ceilidh in the evening was hugely successful and my take-home message from this was how keen cancer nurses are to network and meet in person after the pandemic. The dancing was intermittently brilliant, often chaotic, but always enthusiastic.

The second day maintained the high standard commencing with Dr Catherine Oakley presenting her work on innovative approaches to pre-SACT preparation for patients.  Professor Tanya McCance then gave an engaging and thought-provoking summary of her career’s work examining person-centred-ness in nursing care with a particularly interesting model on how the principles could be applied, and measured, in practice.

The breakout sessions that followed were well attended with all the sessions being evaluated positively. The coaching and self-care session concentrated on attendees building the skills to look after themselves whilst progressing in their careers. The ACCEND session outlined the large, collaborative, and exciting project to restructure cancer careers. The SACT Safety session covered evidence-based management of extravasation, new UKONS –sponsored research into the perception of risk from nurses administering SACT and the development of the UKONS digital SACT passport. The academic programme closed with the presentation of prizes and votes of thanks for Sam Wigfall (retiring from UKONS board) and the hard work put in by Kirsten Wicke and her team from Media1 Productions who ran the event logistics and organisation. 

A satisfying element of the programme this year was the high quality of all of our industry-sponsored sessions. The Roche sponsored session on AI, presented by Rebecca Pope, was particularly well evaluated, as was the session on equality in cancer care sponsored by Gilead. We hope to maintain the quality of these sessions as we look towards next year.

Of course, the conference would not be able to run at all if it was not for the sponsorship of industry partners and particularly those who chose to exhibit with us. I thought the exhibition space was a serious step-up, in both interest and quality, from previous events and I thank all the exhibitors as well as the attendees whose interest sustained this as a vibrant and valuable space for discussion. We had our own exhibition stall to run from a UKONS point of view and I would like to thank all of our cancer champions who provided support for this over the two days. As time goes on and UKONS continues to grow and develop, I can see us becoming more reliant on the work of our champions. Those of you interested in becoming a champion should contact Kay Bell at Kay.Bell@rmh.nhs.uk. Kay will discuss with you about what is required from this important role.

I am pleased to say that the conference was very well-evaluated by attendees with 80% of attendees rating 8/10 or above (with 10 being ‘excellent’), and 89% rating the conference 8/10 or above in terms of how worthwhile attendance was. Pleasingly a massive 90% of you rated the conference at 8/10 or above for how well organised it was. We also received many votes for favourite sessions, less votes for least popular sessions and lots of suggestions for next year. Thanks for the feedback.

All that remains to be said is a final thank you for everyone who came along. I can’t wait for Newport in 2023!

We are hoping that some of the presentations will be made available to attendees in due course but in the meantime, if you want to hear more from the conference, VJ Oncology have some interviews with some key individuals here

Mark

UKONS President