UKONS Conference Report: Newport 2023

7 December 2023

The 2023 UKONS conference, on the Theme of ‘Lets Integrate Cancer Care’ was held in November 2023 at the ICC Wales, Newport, South Wales. It was the largest UKONS conference ever staged, in terms of the number of attendees (600) the number of sponsors and exhibitors (210) and the number of posters submitted by UKONS members (193). The conference therefore built on the success of UKONS 2022 and event continues to grow and develop.

Day 1 began with two keynote sessions in the main hall with Gillian Knight (Nursing Officer for the Welsh Government) reviewing the challenges and successes of the Welsh strategy for delivering cancer care. She identified workforce planning to be a vital element of the strategy looking to the future and she urged nurses to be aware of policies relating to patient care and delivery and get involved with planning and defining policy. Professor Janelle York (Executive Chief Nurse at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust) presented an overview of the benefits of nurse-led research, which she believed are well documented and established, and the challenges, which are based on the perceived status of ‘nursing research’ but also the support and protected time available to nurse researchers. She also encouraged the audience to ‘take patients with us’ particularly when looking for funding and in guiding research priorities.

Following a break for lunch and networking three breakout sessions took place showcasing the projects submitted by our poster authors.

The ‘Unity Across Pathways’ themed breakout featured work on the development of a screening and advise toolkit for patients with low anterior resection syndrome, or LARS, a patient initiated follow up for people completing treatment for head and neck cancer and a project considering the streamlining of cancer radiology pathways utilising a radiology cancer navigator.

The ‘Cancer Care Across the Age Spectrum’ session saw presentations on bereavement care for children, impact of prostate cancer treatment on body image in older men, PROMS in adolescents and young adults who had survived CNS tumours, and the uptake of digital health in older people.

The ‘Multiple Perspectives of Cancer Care’ breakout gave the opportunity for delegates to see presentations on an ambulatory pathway for abdominal paracentesis, prehabilitation advice from Clinical Nurse Specialists, rehabilitation in patients with chronic pain and maintaining the balance between hope and realism in patients undergoing surgery for liver metastases.

Following a well-attended UKONS Annual General Meeting the academic programme recommenced with the UKONS Debate. This year, this popular hardy perennial, showcased Sandra Dyer, Claire Taylor and Eamonn Sullivan presenting cases for who would define the future of cancer care, primary care, secondary care or the third sector. Claire Taylor presenting the case for the third sector, was ultimately victorious.

The first day’s academic programme concluded with a moving presentation from Eamonn Sullivan talking about his experiences as the Chief Nurse for the Nightingale Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic and the links with redeployment of oncology nurses.

The evening festivities proved both popular and lively with many memorable ‘performances’ on the bandeoke stage and an appearance by a man who sounded a lot like Tom Jones and looked a tiny bit like him too.

The second day programme started with Dr Claire Taylor, the Chief nurse of Macmillan Cancer Support running through what is needed to deliver effective personalised care. The take home message from this session was the importance of ensuring everyone with cancer gets the support they need, focusing on ‘what matters’ to people. She was closely followed by Professor Anne Marie Rafferty, who summarised key findings on the value of the nursing workforce from her illustrious career as a researcher and champion of nursing care.

Four well-attended breakout sessions then took place, the first of these covered the contribution of the ‘third sector’ to modern cancer care. Presentations from Jemima Reynolds (Trekstok), Sara Liyanage and Jackie Wright (Future Dreams House) and Dr Caroline Leek (Fruit Fly Collective) showing how the charity sector is vital to providing support to people affected by cancer and guidance for them and their families. The presenters promoted reaching out and talking to young adults, as isolation and confidence are greatly affected by anti-cancer therapies. They also encouraged the use as many charities as possible to support young people and their families.

Session two considered the importance of assessing frailty on older patients with Dr Cassandra Ng giving vital advice on the practical aspects of doing this effectively based on the latest guidelines from The Joint Collegiate Council for Oncology (JCCO).

The third session focussed on Acute Oncology with Ali Hodge giving an overview of what is new in the field, particularly looking at joint working with acute medical physicians and meeting the challenges presented by unplanned cancer care. Dr Verana Lavender and Gina Madera gave an exciting overview of the CASCADE project and the development of a multidisciplinary competency passport for acute oncology.

Session four gave attendees the opportunity to update their knowledge on advance in SACT delivery with Hannah Churchill and Jonathan Knight presenting the recent launch of the digital SACT passport, and Dr Karen Campbell talking about her UKONS-supported research into the nurse’s perception of risk and exposure in SACT delivery. The session ended with an interactive session on the links between SACT delivery and choreography.

The final academic session found Libby Potter and Mark Foulkes updating the audience on the ACCEND project and how to begin to use elements of the programme in practice.

The second day concluded with the giving of the prizes and awards. The first placed poster was  ‘The impact of prostate cancer treatment on the older man’s body image’ presented by  Lucy Moore, the second poster prize going to Zhuming Bao for her work on ‘Understanding the nurses’ roles in chemotherapy day unit: a qualitative study’  and the third prize given to ‘Supporting Cancer patients at home in Virtual Cancer Wards’ presented by Lara Roskelly. The Young and Early Career Cancer Nurse Poster Award went to Dr Jeffrey Hanna for his work entitled ‘Mixed-methods evaluation of a face-to-face educational intervention for health and social care professionals to deliver family-centred cancer supportive care when a parent with dependent children is at end of life’. The UKONS Past President Poster award was presented to Dr Julie Armoogum for her work on pain titled ‘Chronic post cancer treatment pain – how can we increase unity across pathways?’

On her final UKONS Conference as a board member Dr Verna Lavender was presented with the richly deserved ‘Presidents Award’ for her contribution to UKONS as President, Treasurer and Board Member as well as her on-going contribution to cancer nursing as a researcher.

Scattered throughout the programme were four Industry sessions presented by Roche, BMS, Daiichi Sanko/AstraZeneca and Gilead Sciences. These were of a good standard and were on subjects of interest to our partners but also our members. Without the support of our industry partners there could be no UKONS conference and these sessions and our ever-growing and engaging exhibition space is an important element of our event.

UKONS have just received the audience feedback on the conference. The headlines are that it was remarkably well-evaluated with more than 95% of attendees rating it ‘good’, very good or ‘excellent’ . The UKONS board will soon be meeting to go through the feedback in more detail and to begin planning for our 2024 Event ‘Working Towards Positive Change in Cancer Care’ to be held in Manchester on November 15th and 16th. Hope to see you there and thanks for your continued support.


Karen Campbell - UKONS President