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NHS plans GP support to reduce delays in treating suspected cancer patients

Jenny Urwin
28/11/2022
NHS Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard has announced a national roll out of 'fast-track testing' through the 'NHS Long Term Plan', to give all GPs in England the authority to refer suspected cancer patients for tests without needing to see a specialist first.

This new initiative, planned to start this month, is a positive development in early diagnosis of cancer. Currently, only few GP surgeries can refer patients to a hospital or diagnostic centre for an ultrasound, X-ray or sigmoidoscopy to detect colon and rectal cancers. This plan will aim for every GP to have this right in the future.

Although the NHS reports the number of people receiving cancer treatment continues to be high, with more than 27,000 people starting cancer treatment in August, the current testing system has been unable to meet key waiting time targets. At the end of September, about 320,000 patients in England were waiting more than the maximum of six weeks for a key diagnostic test.

The plan aims to tackle this issue by preventing long delays for those classed 'non-urgent' for testing purposes. The Guardian acknowledged that 67,000 people a year who have possible but vague signs of the disease – such as a cough, fatigue or dizziness - fall into this category. The scheme's implementation will therefore support GPs to provide more opportunities for testing across the UK for people with these vague symptoms.

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) acknowledges that despite significant developments, nearly half of patients with a known stage of cancer are still diagnosed at stages III or IV, and almost 1 in 5 newly diagnosed cancer patients in England still receive their diagnosis via an emergency route. CRUK therefore supports the proposed changes in the hope this will fulfil the NHS's Long Term Plan to diagnose three in four cancers at stages one or two by 2028.

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