A multi-professional approach to the delivery of non-surgical oncology services in the UK is of fundamental importance in optimising cancer care and achieving best outcomes. Therefore clinical oncologists must work in partnership with other medical specialties and health professionals at both local and national levels towards this goal.
The role of clinical oncologists
Clinical oncologists can deliver all non-surgical treatment modalities for cancer: radiotherapy (external beam, brachytherapy, proton beam therapy and molecular radiotherapy) and systemic anti-cancer therapy (SACT – chemotherapy, immunotherapy, biological and hormonal therapies).
Working together for cancer care
Most clinical oncologists deliver some therapies in partnership with medical oncologists or haematologists, as well as with the wider multi-disciplinary team through skill mix. This enhances patient experience and the quality and cost-effectiveness of the service delivered. Shared governance, for example through peer review meetings, ensures ongoing professional development of all members of the team, medical and non-medical alike.
Increasingly, clinical oncologists participate in, and may lead, multiple teams comprising medical oncologists, haematologists and other independent practitioners from allied health professional groupings. This ensures that patients are treated in a timely fashion by a competent practitioner but that access to specialist clinical expertise is maintained for those with complex requirements.
This multi-professional partnership in non-surgical cancer care is supported by several committees which facilitate collaborative working by professional bodies at a national level on matters of policy, provision of expert opinion and delivery of professional guidance. The Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy Boards have representation from across the four UK nations and from other organisations closely involved in radiotherapy and SACT services.
There are many areas of common interest to the clinical and medical oncology specialties. The Joint Collegiate Council for Oncology (JCCO) was established jointly by the RCR and the RCP to collaborate and advise on matters such as training, staffing, service needs and resources for the treatment of cancer.