29.05.2024

People displaying signs of cancer could go straight for a scan without having to see a GP

People displaying signs of cancer could go straight for a scan without having to see a GP, the Health Secretary has announced. Steve Barclay is drawing up plans to combat waiting lists in the NHS, allowing patients to get specialist help more quickly.

Currently, patients experiencing cancer symptoms typically visit their GP who refers them to a specialist or for a scan.

But people with vague symptoms can face long waits for an appointment with a specialist.

Department of Health and Social Care officials are working on proposals which could mean patients go straight to an NHS diagnostic centre.

People displaying signs of cancer could go straight for a scan without having to see a GP, the Health Secretary has announced. Steve Barclay (pictured in London yesterday) is drawing up plans to combat waiting lists in the NHS, allowing patients to get specialist help more quickly

Currently, patients experiencing cancer symptoms typically visit their GP who refers them to a specialist or for a scan. Department of Health and Social Care officials are working on proposals which could mean patients go straight to an NHS diagnostic centre (stock photo)

Currently, patients experiencing cancer symptoms typically visit their GP who refers them to a specialist or for a scan. Department of Health and Social Care officials are working on proposals which could mean patients go straight to an NHS diagnostic centre (stock photo)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (pictured today at Milton Keynes University Hospital) has made cutting NHS waiting lists one of his five key priorities

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (pictured today at Milton Keynes University Hospital) has made cutting NHS waiting lists one of his five key priorities

Mr Barclay told The Telegraph: ‘We are very much looking at those patient pathways.

‘Where there are bottlenecks in the system of referral from the GP, is there scope to go direct to the relevant diagnostic test or to the [specialist] clinician?

‘Breast cancer is a good example because almost always the GP refers on [for scans or to a hospital specialist] and therefore there’s an opportunity to design out bottlenecks in the system.’

Ministers have already pledged to create 160 community diagnostic centres in England by 2025, with 114 now open.

Speaking as he prepared to fly to his first G20 Health Ministers meeting in India, Mr Barclay also said the changes for cancer patients would follow recommendations from clinical experts.

It comes as guidance issued in November last year urged GPs to use their clinical judgment and order more scans for symptoms such as coughs, fatigue and dizziness — skipping the need to see a middle-man first.

Ministers are also set to formally announce the ‘merging’ of cancer targets later today.

Under the plans, the NHS will adopt just three targets on treating and diagnosing patients quicker.
Currently, trusts are assessed against ten different measures.

But dire performance data show the NHS in England is failing against nine of the existing targets.

Campaigners however have described the move to axe them ‘deeply worrying’.

Yet the health service says the changes will benefit patients, getting them diagnosed quicker and boosting their survival chances.

Mr Barclay insisted the changes were ‘very much clinically led’.

Rather than a ‘tickbox process’, the proposals aimed to prioritise faster diagnosis and treatment, he added.

The commitments being ditched include the two-week urgent referral from a GP for suspected cancer and a maximum two-week wait for breast-cancer patients to see a specialist.

The NHS will now be expected to ensure 75 per cent of patients have a diagnosis or all-clear within 28 days.

There will also be a maximum 31-day wait for patients to start their first treatment and a 62-day target for it to begin after a GP referral.

Under new proposals, Mr Barclay also told The Telegraph that patients who have been left on NHS waiting lists for more than nine months will be offered a choice of hospitals to shorten their wait.

The move, which is set to be implemented from October, could help up to 200,000 patients.

The decision to scrap the seven cancer targets – set to be confirmed tomorrow – has sparked huge backlash. The commitments being ditched include the two-week urgent referral from a GP for suspected cancer and a maximum two-week wait for breast-cancer patients to see a specialist. The NHS will now be expected to ensure 75 per cent of patients have a diagnosis or all-clear within 28 days. There will also be a maximum 31-day wait for patients to start their first treatment and a 62-day target for treatment to begin after a GP referral

The decision to scrap the seven cancer targets – set to be confirmed tomorrow – has sparked huge backlash. The commitments being ditched include the two-week urgent referral from a GP for suspected cancer and a maximum two-week wait for breast-cancer patients to see a specialist. The NHS will now be expected to ensure 75 per cent of patients have a diagnosis or all-clear within 28 days. There will also be a maximum 31-day wait for patients to start their first treatment and a 62-day target for treatment to begin after a GP referral

Every hospital across the country is expected to hit ten separate cancer time targets, centered around seeing suspected patients, catching their disease quickly and starting their treatment. The biggest four are: Two Week Wait From GP Urgent Referral to First Consultant Appointment (top left); One Month Wait from a Decision to Treat to a First Treatment for Cancer (bottom left); Four Week (28 days) Wait From Urgent Referral to Patient Told they have Cancer, or Cancer is Definitively Excluded (top right; and Two Month Wait from GP Urgent Referral to a First Treatment for Cancer (bottom right)

Huge medical breakthroughs mean that cancer is no longer a guaranteed 'death sentence', top experts have said. Data shows survival rates have soared over the past 50 years. Only one in four men with prostate cancer in the 1970s would be lucky enough to live to see the next decade. Today the reverse is true, with 75 per cent of men diagnosed with the disease still alive a decade later, figures show

Huge medical breakthroughs mean that cancer is no longer a guaranteed ‘death sentence’, top experts have said. Data shows survival rates have soared over the past 50 years. Only one in four men with prostate cancer in the 1970s would be lucky enough to live to see the next decade. Today the reverse is true, with 75 per cent of men diagnosed with the disease still alive a decade later, figures show

He said: ‘I think it’s really important that we empower patients; more patient choice is a key enabling tool within that.

‘The estimate is around 200,000 patients will benefit from patient choice being rolled out to those who have been on the waiting list for more than 40 weeks.’

He had commissioned businessman Steve Rowe, a former chief executive of Marks & Spencer, to cut waste in the NHS in order to release more money to the healthcare frontline, he added.

Rishi Sunak made cutting waiting lists one of his 2023 priorities, pledging in January that ‘lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly’.

However, he has acknowledged that strikes across the health service are making the task ‘more challenging’.

Latest figures show the number of people waiting for treatment has risen by 700,000 since he took power.

Stats released last week revealed England’s backlog, for NHS procedures like hip and knee replacements, now stands at 7.6million.

It means roughly one in seven people across the country are currently stuck in the system awaiting care.  More than 380,000 patients have gone a year without being treated.

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