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Award Winner 2020: Corporate Campaign of the Year

MSD - Nurses Matter - supporting Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) in cancer services

The 2020 PRCA Public Affairs Awards celebrated the best work of the year and below is the category's winning entry.


  • Ensure recognition of cancer Clinical Nurses Specialists in NHS strategic workforce planning and encourage investment in CNS roles;
  • Codification of the CNS role as a career path for the nursing profession, with appropriate financial recompense;
  • Foster pride and recognition in the nursing community of the valuable role of CNSs in patient care.


  • CNS role specifically referenced in the NHS People Plan;
  • A key recommendation in the State of the Nation Workforce and Talent report;
  • Campaign engagement and shares across the nurse community.


  • Work with the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) community to create external content to make the case for their valuable role;
  • Supportthe lung cancer patient community to demonstrate the human story of the support CNSs provide;
  • Collaboratwith the lung cancer professional and patient communities to engage parliamentary stakeholders as a
  • dvocates for the value of CNSs;
  • Use milestones such as Lung Cancer Awareness Month (November 2019) and the WHO International Year of the Nurse and Midwife (2020) to create engagement;
  • Feed into the NHS People Plan development to make specific reference to supporting CNSs through recognition or investment.


  • Create digital #NursesMatter campaign branding with nursing community partners;
  • Hold series of events in Lung Cancer Awareness Month to build support and awareness;
  • Engage former England Cricket Captain Sir Andrew Strauss, founder of The Ruth Strauss Foundationand former NFL player Chris Draft, founder of Team Draft, as advocates;
  • Collaborate with Lung Cancer Nursing UK( LCNUK) to survey their membership to demonstrate the value they add to patient care whilst undertremendous pressure as a profession;
  • Hold a parliamentary reception marking the International Year of the Nurse and Midwifeproviding a platform to launch a policy report based on the LCNUK survey;
  • Support the State of the Nation Workforce and Talentreport led by Professor Mike Bewickwith a detailed case study on CNSs and their role in supporting patients with lung cancer.

Campaign narrative September 2019 – October 2020

CNSs are vital to cancer care, providing support and advocacy for patients from the point of diagnosis throughout their cancer journey. However, they are an under resourced and overstretched workforce. They also have no codified professional framework, so are often not invested in or remunerated in accordance to their experience. Furthermore, as experienced nurses they are often older and have higher salaries than entry level nurses and are frequently vulnerable to budget cuts. They are also more likely to be closer to retirement, leaving a potential skills gap unless more nurses are recruited to replace them.

We began working with LCNUK and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation in summer 2019 to build towards November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Our combined focus was on developing a campaign to create advocacy for the role of CNSs in cancer care, using lung cancer as the exemplar. Advocacy centred on the vital clinical and emotional support they provide, while being overburdened and under recognised.

MSD created the #NursesMatter social media campaign and branding as an umbrella under whic

h to unite. This included working with nurses and patients to share their stories online.

To build a drumbeat for International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the 2020 campaign to which we planned to peg CNS activism, we rolled out a number of engagements in Autumn 2019. This included former US NFL player Chris Draft coming over from the US to tour Guys & St Thomas Hospital and St Barts lung cancer nursing and patient groups, a meeting with Sir Andrew Strauss to create the partnership, and the launch of the Science Museum’s Medicines Gallery. We also briefed a number of MPs, in particular lung cancer survivor James Brokenshire MP and Health Select Committee Member Paul Bristow MP.

A survey was conducted of LCNUK members to establish the value they add and the stresses and strains they are under. Findings were compiled into a report and recommendations. Then, working with lung cancer patient groups the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, EGFR Positive UK, ALK Positive UK and The Ruth Strauss Foundation, we developed a public, social media and political engagement campaign.

In March 2020, the report was launched in Parliament to showcase the importance of CNSs to cancer care and celebrate the WHO International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. More than 100 lung cancer patients, carers and nurses came together with 30 MPs, who all signed up to the #NursesMatter pledge.

The event was supported by the Health Minister responsible for the cancer workforce, Jo Churchill MP, as well as Sir Andrew Strauss, Chris Draft, and Paul Bristow MP. It featured a powerful speech from a young lung cancer patient, who was herself a trainee midwife.

The event was broadcast live via social media attracting thousands of engagements, with Cancer Research UK and MPs (including the shadow health minister) tweeting words of support. 11 radio interviews and 18 pieces of national coverage were secured, with potential to reach up to 4.1M people. The event raised a huge amount of awareness for the importance of CNSs and, in turn, the patient community’s support for them.

Despite the intervention of Covid-19 not long after the event, the campaign continued with a particular focus on the work of cancer nurses during in the pandemic. On 30 July 2020, cancer CNSs were specifically recognised in the NHS People Plan with a commitment to grant funding for 350 new trainees. Then, shortly after, cancer CNSs were highlighted in a report by Professor Mike Bewick as a particularly important workforce to invest in, with a specific case study on lung cancer CNSs. The report was launched at a virtual event led by former Health Minister Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell, which included the NHS England & Improvement Director of Workforce Strategy Gina Naguib-Roberts. It was also a key feature of a debate at this year’s virtual Conservative Party Conference featuring Minister Jo Churchill MP and James Brokenshire MP.