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NICE quality standard calls for GPs to access cancer diagnostics

NICE has renewed calls for GPs to have better access to cancer diagnostic tests, in a bid to speed up diagnosis.

A new NICE quality standard says GP should have direct access to diagnostic endoscopy, ultrasound, MRI, X-ray and CT for people with suspected cancer.

It further says people who present in primary care with symptoms that suggest oesophageal or stomach cancer should have urgent direct access to an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy; adults presenting in primary care with symptoms that suggest colorectal cancer, who do not meet the referral pathway criteria, should have a test for blood in their faeces; and that people with suspected cancer who are referred to a cancer service should be given written information encouraging them to attend.

The new standard comes as NICE published new guidance last year giving GPs greater freedom to investigate patients with suspected cancer, also with the aim of patients being diagnoses at an earlier stage.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of NICE, said that speeding up diagnosis is 'a simple step that has the potential to save thousands of lives each year'.

She said: 'In this quality standard we’re highlighting the need to give GPs the ability to refer patients directly for key tests such as MRI, X-ray and CT scans for suspected cancer so we can make that process even faster.’

'We also want to ensure that everyone who is referred for further tests attends their appointment as this could be vital for a swift diagnosis but also because missed appointments delays other patients and wastes precious NHS resources.

'We have also highlighted tests for suspected oesophageal or stomach cancer and colorectal cancer that could make a big difference to patients’ chances.’

NHS England annunced a new £15m investment in speedier cancer diagnosis last month, including creating a 'national diagnostics capacity fund' to increase capacity and productivity of diagnostic services and trialling new multidisciplinary diagnostic centres over the next two years.

The quality standard in full:

  1. GPs have direct access to diagnostic endoscopy, ultrasound, MRI, X-ray and CT for people with suspected cancer.
  2. People presenting in primary care with symptoms that suggest oesophageal or stomach cancer have an urgent direct access upper gastrointestinal endoscopy.
  3. Adults presenting in primary care with symptoms that suggest colorectal cancer, who do not meet the referral pathway criteria, have a test for blood in their faeces.
  4. People with suspected cancer who are referred to a cancer service are given written information encouraging them to attend.

Source: NICE

Readers' comments (1)

  • In East Lancashire we have had direct access to most of these tests for years. Nice to know East Lancashire is ahead of the game

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