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NHS England gives GPs direct access to cancer tests to speed up diagnosis

From November, GP teams can directly order CT scans, ultrasounds or brain MRIs

NHS England

NHS England has announced that all GP practices across the country will be able to book cancer tests directly for their patients from this month, helping to cut waiting times and speed up diagnosis.

Every GP will be now able to directly order CT scans, ultrasounds or brain MRIs for patients with concerning symptoms, but who fall outside the guideline threshold set by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for an urgent suspected cancer referral.

GPs have previously had to refer patients to specialist hospital doctors once they have identified clear symptoms, with many patients with less clear symptoms having to wait much longer for a diagnosis.

Only around one in five cancer cases are detected after routine testing following referral to a hospital specialist, NHS England said in a statement.

The scheme will allow GPs to order these checks directly, helping to cut down wait times to as little as four weeks.

Hundreds of thousands of initial hospital appointments could also be freed up under the approach by reducing the need for a specialist consultation first, the NHS said.

Under the scheme, around 67,000 people who are usually diagnosed with cancer through non-urgent testing will now be eligible for fast-tracking, meaning they can have a better chance of having their disease identified at an earlier stage, when survival chances are higher.

Urgent cancer referrals in August this year rose to the highest number since records began at over a quarter of a million, having been at record levels since March 2021.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard told delegates at the NHS Providers annual conference of health managers in Liverpool that the new initiative builds on this progress by supporting GPs to provide more opportunities for testing across the country for people who have vague symptoms.

“By sending patients straight to testing, we can catch and treat more cancers at an earlier stage, helping us to deliver on our NHS Long Term plan’s ambitions to diagnose three-quarters of cancers at stages one or two when they are easier to treat,” she said.

The NHS also said it will build on existing hospital diagnostic services with the significant additional capacity provided by community diagnostic centres, with dozens of ‘one stop shops’ having already been introduced in hospitals and town centres across the country since July 2021 and plans already made to open up 160 in total over the next two years.

Article by
Emily Kimber

17th November 2022

From: Healthcare

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