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DoH: £50m invested in early cancer diagnosis

Department of Health officials have said that £50m has been invested in early cancer diagnosis in the wake of a investigation into GPS referring patients.

We have already invested #450 million in early diagnosis of cancer, and, as the Office for National Statistics says, survival rates are at record highs.

Direct GP access to diagnostic tests is one pathway that helps with this, but there has also been a 50% increase in GPs' use of the urgent suspected cancer referral pathway over the last four years.

GPs directly requested over a quarter of all tests that may have been used to diagnose cancer in June 2014 and we delivered a record 1.6 million diagnostic tests in July 2014, compared with 1.2 million in April 2010.

– Department of Health (DoH) spokesman


GP's 'prevented' from directly referring cancer patients

An investigation has found that half of GPs are prevented from directly referring suspected bowel or brain cancer patients for scans.

Patients face a "postcode lottery" of services due to restrictions imposed by some clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), according to GP magazine, which carried out the study.

GP's 'prevented' from directly referring cancer patients. Credit: PA

Freedom of Information (FOI) responses from 182 CCGs, which organise the delivery of NHS services in England, found 49% barred GPs from directly accessing MRI scans for suspected brain cancer patients.

Meanwhile, 50% of CCGs said they did not commission direct access to flexible sigmoidoscopy tests in cases of suspected bowel cancer, the study found.

Health chief: 'Not always easy for GPs to spot cancer'

It is "not always easy for GPs to spot cancer" a health expert has warned as fresh guidelines are put forward to help doctors spot cancer early on.

Clinical practice director of Nice - who are behind the updated recommendations - Professor Mark Baker, warned there were hundreds of different types of cancer making it "unrealistic" to always expect a diagnosis early.

There are more than 200 different types of the disease so it is unrealistic to expect them to know every single sign and symptom of each one, especially when they only see a handful of new cases a year.

Research carried out in general practice in recent years gives us better evidence about which signs and symptoms best predict cancer, and all this is captured in our draft updated guidance.

We are updating our guideline to make things as simple as possible for GPs to consider the possibility of cancer and refer people to the right service at the right time. Early referral and diagnosis can help save lives.

– Professor Mark Baker

Guidelines provide 'clear recommendations for tests'

New NHS guidelines for spotting cancer early will include clear recommendations for tests and waiting times for specialists referrals, health experts have revealed.

Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) will have:

  • How long people should wait to be seen by a specialist once they have been referred to hospital.
  • They range from two weeks to 48 hours or sooner, depending on the patient's symptoms.
  • New recommendations about "safety netting" will also advise GPs how and when to review people with a symptom associated with a risk of cancer but who do not meet the usual criteria for referral, to ensure cancer is not missed.
  • Nice will also update its information for the public to help people identify possible signs of cancer and encourage them to visit their GP sooner.

The updated guidance is expected to be published in May 2015 following a consultation.

Fresh guidelines for doctors to 'help spot cancer early'

Healthcare professionals will be given more help to spot the early signs of cancer and hopefully save more lives, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has said.

Lynda Bellingham had spoken of her wish to have one last Christmas with her family. Credit: PA

The advisory board has published draft guidelines for GPs based on recent evidence about which symptoms "best predict cancer".

Late diagnosis could be costing thousands of lives every year in England and Wales, according to Nice.

In a separate but related move, Lynda Bellingham's son, Michael Peluso, spoke publicly about how he believes her life would have been saved had she had a colonoscopy. The actress died from colon cancer last month.

The 31-year-old told the Mirror: "She was a massive champion for getting a colonoscopy. It would have saved her life.

"They missed it so much. She had two stool tests, a blood test and they never found it. She was carrying cancer for 18 months before she discovered she had it."

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