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GPs go forth

GPs send photos of skin lesions to speed up cancer diagnosis in new partnership

GP practices on the Isle of Wight have partnered with an app designed to speed up access to diagnosis for skin problems.

Two practices are using the app to see if its use on the NHS can improve access to specialist dermatology services and improve early detection of melanoma.

It follows a similar scheme in the North East of England, where GPs were requested to take photographs of skin lesions on their phones before referring a patient with suspected cancer. 

Some criticised the scheme for undermining the clinical judgement of GPs and increasing workload by adding an additional step for GPs to complete. 

In the Isle of White, a GP or nurse specialist will take high quality, magnified images of skin abnormalities with a dermatoscope through the Dermicus app, which will be sent securely to be reviewed by a specialist team.

It is being rolled out under the NHS Academic Health Sciences Network programme which works with companies to test new technologies for potential wider roll out.

Images taken using the app, which was developed by a Swedish company, are sent securely to Lighthouse Medical who provide NHS dermatology services on the Island.

Decisions are then taken on whether to offer biopsy, a face-to-face appointment or referral to another service.

Early feedback on the app in the Isle of Wight, which will be rolled out Island-wide, suggested it may be speeding up the process.

Dr Christine Seiger, a GP at Argyll House Surgery, one of the practices involved in the scheme, said patients' cases had been reviewed quicker since the app was introduced, which could help with the early detection of cancer.

‘The biggest benefit we have experienced is both the speed in which we can send images across to specialists, and also how easy it is to use.’

Matthew Williams, primary care innovations manager at Wessex AHSN, said their role was to work with companies which have innovations that can help improve services for patients and save NHS staff time and money.

‘The Dermicus app has huge potential to do both, and we’re thrilled patients on the Isle of Wight have the opportunity to access this new, exciting service.’

A spokesperson for the CCGs leading the project in the North East of England said the scheme was still running and is 'going well'. 

The spokesperson for the NHS North Durham CCG and NHS Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield CCG and County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: 'Our tele-dermatology service was introduced in May and is going well. All GP practices across County Durham and Darlington are now using it to refer patients.

'Evidence indicates that digital technology improves patient experience and, as health partners, we’re working closely together to ensure this new process means patients referred to us with suspected skin cancer are seen and, where appropriate, treated, quickly.'

Earlier this year, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said digital services would help ease GP shortages

This article has been altered to reflect that this app is not a trial. The service has been contracted for three years on the Isle of Wight. 


Readers' comments (3)

  • Risks: Camera and screen colour variability, other skin lesion, distribution, history and the time it takes. More forms to fill.
    I doubt is is any quicker than a face to face and adds a lot of risks for lawyers to exploit. Might be a compromise for Isle of Wright but it is not useful for most GPs.

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  • Dear All,
    Been done dozens of times before, allways falls over because the enthusiasts who are likely to be trialing this are the ones who least need to have their referrals policed. the GPs sending seb warts up as urgent cancers will be the last to take up the technology.
    Paul C

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  • This service is using top range Dermatoscopes with designated smartphones with accurate colour, tone and pixel capabilities. The referral form is within the app itself and a copy of the referral is sent to the GPs for record purposes to avoid duplication of effort. Many dermatology services nationally are struggling with routine lesion work load- use of this type of service would allow melanomas hiding in the long waits to be identified earlier so saving lives. There are no compromises being made here.

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