High street pharmacies will be paid to spot signs of cancer in a drive to catch more tumours early and ease pressure on GPs.
They will be able to refer customers directly to specialists for scans and checks on the NHS without the need to see a family doctor first. It is hoped the scheme will save lives by identifying symptoms people were unaware could be signs of cancer, enabling them to get treatment.
From this month, roaming ‘liver trucks’ will also start to offer on-the-spot scans in town centres for people most at risk of getting liver cancer.
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, will outline the plans at the NHS Confed Expo conference in Liverpool today.
The scheme will save lives by identifying symptoms people were unaware could be signs of cancer and get them seen by a specialist sooner
The NHS has committed to increasing the proportion of cancers caught early from one in two to three in four, increasing survival chances and making treatment easier.
It comes after it was announced pharmacies and nurses would be given powers to issue sick notes from July 1.
The law will be changed so patients no longer need to see their family doctor to be signed off work, freeing up millions of GP appointments.
Commenting on the new initiatives, Dr Anthony Cunliffe, national clinical advisor for primary care at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘Doctors and nurses are working tirelessly to diagnose and treat the tens of thousands of people entering a very busy cancer care system.
‘This pilot will give people the opportunity to access more trained professionals in their community to get symptoms investigated, potentially getting them into the system earlier and easing pressure on primary care.
‘The quicker someone is diagnosed, the better their chances of survival.’
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, added: ‘We’re pleased to see investment in innovative models of care, such as referrals from community pharmacy teams and mobile scanners.
‘By changing the way people engage with the health service, we have the potential to help diagnose more cancers at an earlier, more treatable stage.
‘We look forward to seeing how these efforts will support the NHS’s ambitious early diagnosis targets.’