Publish date: 17 November 2022
Taking training of our cancer workforce to a new level
How The Cancer Academy learning platform was created
By Lucy Irwin, CMCA Workforce Project Manager
Our NHS workforce is under more pressure than ever and with the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering face-to-face training and support to healthcare professionals is not always the most suitable option.
But with one in two people developing cancer in their lifetime, health professionals in all areas will continue to have cancer-related questions and need information concerning their patients.
The upskilling and continued development of our cancer healthcare workforce is high on our agenda at Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance. All staff working with cancer patients or their loved ones need easy to access training, education, information and support.
So we decided to launch The Cancer Academy…
In December 2020, work began to plan what the Academy could become, how we would create it, who would benefit from it, and what our priorities would be.
The planning was extensive. We scoped out what was already available with the aim of avoiding duplication, as there were already some fantastic online resources created by a number of existing organisations.
We knew that an online platform was the way The Cancer Academy had to be delivered, and a website was needed which busy healthcare professionals would be able to navigate simply and easily. So, finding the correct structure and design for the site was imperative.
We created a project plan and then established a Steering Group made up of people with different expertise right across the Cancer Alliance.
We knew it was important to engage leaders and potential users of the workforces who we wanted to support, so we took time to gather the views of people in different cancer-related roles.
We called upon willing volunteers to be part of a project user group, a mix of healthcare professionals that can review and feedback any thoughts on our plans for the site both during the initial development but also as we move forward into the next phases of the project.
The group includes representatives from Clinicians, Lead Nurses, Cancer Navigators, Cancer Support Workers, Healthcare Trainers and Outreach and Engagement Workers in the community. They were supportive of our planned mix of up-to-date information about cancer, educational material, training tools and resources from local and national organisations. Another key area highlighted within the feedback was our plans to personalise the platform and try to make it a portal which cancer healthcare professionals would use as an extension of their job.
After assimilating this feedback, we updated the project plan to reflect the feelings and concerns of healthcare professionals and created an idea of how learning, training and mutual support could be reflected in our new website.
This collective group of experts had a preview of the site before ‘go live’, with the opportunity to feedback their initial thoughts, which was an essential part in the process of ensuring the site was ready to launch.
Working with our commissioned web development scheme we tested a number of designs until we found one which worked.
Meanwhile, we also chose the name, our branding and our corporate objectives and created some promotional videos which reflected the thoughts of healthcare professionals who were supporting us with this new platform.
Like any big project, we had highs and lows on the way and some setbacks too, but we worked through them and on September 26th, 2022 – after the launch day was postponed due to the passing of the late Queen Elizabeth – The Cancer Academy went live.
It has been a busy eight weeks since our launch, but we have been really pleased with the numbers and variety of cancer professionals signing up to the site. On the date of publishing this blog we have almost 300 people signed up.
See below for the main criteria of those who have registred...
The registration process has been created to personalise users’ experience of the site. The user dashboard displays recommended resources for each individual’s role and area of work and also has the ability to save useful resources so people can return to them quickly.
Here is what the site can offer health professionals:
This has been created with time-pressed healthcare workers in mind. All healthcare professionals can access recommended resources and save and/or find already saved resources.
The Notebook enables registered users to store work contacts and other useful information in one place. The tabs along the top of the Notebook have been designed to categorise information and can be easily accessed and edited.
Within the digital Notebook, the ePortfolio has been created to record to record attendance at education and training sessions – all in one easily accessible online area.
This section features interesting news items relating to cancer education and development.
Includes a calendar of useful events in cancer education and training
There is a large collection of useful training materials, recorded webinars, e-learning modules created by CMCA and other partner organisations such as The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, Macmillan and Cancer Research UK.
The Cancer Academy is constantly evolving and will continue to review and adapt resources to complement our workforce.
And the platform is not just for people in Cheshire and Merseyside. We are hoping cancer care workers from across the country will sign up and as well as benefit from our site, bring their own local perspectives.
An important priority for the NHS
Expanding the primary care workforce remains a top priority within the NHS to increase capacity to support more patients.
With the introduction of Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS), where GP practices and Primary Care Networks are able to increase the variety of healthcare professionals they employ, comes a new workforce that requires education, support and development.
One of The Cancer Academy’s main focus areas is our non-clinical supportive cancer care staff, our Cancer Support Workers (CSW), Cancer Navigators (CN) and other ARRS roles. These roles have become essential for providing support to our patients, reducing pressure on busy GPs, helping to reduce appointment waiting times, and are increasing in numbers across the country.
The Cancer Academy has a section of its platform specifically designed for this workforce group, created by CMCA’s Workforce and Transformation Education Lead Sharon Rowe.
Sharon has worked closely with CSWs/CNs over the last six years, providing training and development sessions, as well as developing learn and share events for those working in this role.
CMCA has pioneered these roles across Cheshire and Merseyside and Sharon has taken the lead in understanding the support and development requirements of the cancer supportive workforce.
The Principles in Cancer Care Programme has been largely informed by CSW/CN and is unique in offering a CORE programme of enhanced and psychological skills training.
The Cancer Academy provides useful information and a range of education and resources, with information about the roles, including examples of job descriptions, video accounts from staff working within these supportive roles and provides information on the Principles in Cancer Care Programme. There is also access to an exclusive online community of practice forum which can be used to chat with others in similar roles.
Our other main focus area for The Cancer Academy is existing healthcare professionals working in primary and community care settings. These individuals may require instant access to the latest information about cancer, with early detection and diagnosis being crucial for the best patient outcomes.
So, what is next for The Cancer Academy?
The project team is currently planning for the year ahead and have some exciting developments planned.
We will be adding more resources and learning on health inequalities, which are being subject to greater focus by the NHS (read its Long Term Plan here).
In 2023, The Cancer Academy will host online training and education workshops for healthcare professionals on health inequalities, facilitated by Jo Trask, CMCA’s Patient Experience & Health Inequalities Manager. We currently have a library of useful resources relating to health inequalities accessible on the site here.
The platform will also host online workshops for healthcare professionals to improve virtual engagement skills.
Please join us at The Cancer Academy
We hope you take a look at what The Cancer Academy has to offer – and sign up!
There are plenty of ways for you to find out more about The Cancer Academy.
- Follow us on Twitter: @cancer_academy
- Register on the site: www.canceracademy.nhs.uk
- Or contact one of the team via email: email@example.com
By working together, efficiently and effectively in a digital, modern way, backed up by the mutual support that individuals can bring to the platform, we are sure The Cancer Academy will bring ‘Excellence in Cancer Care’ for years to come – reflecting the ‘excellence’ our cancer care professionals provide for our communities.
Watch the video to find out more about The Cancer Academy...