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Overhaul of GP cancer referrals set to be piloted

GPs will be able to fast-track patients with ‘alarm’ symptoms of cancer under a pilot announced by the Welsh Government.

The pilot will see GP have access to a multi-disciplinary diagnostic centre for potentially serious symptoms and direct access to some tests for ‘low-but-not-no’ risk symptoms.

The approach will be tested across Wales with Cwm Taf and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Boards planning early pilots of diagnostic centres, according to the Welsh Government’s revised Cancer Delivery Plan.

It said the ‘rethink’ is in response to a visit to Denmark – where this ‘three-tier’ approach was modelled – by the Cancer Implementation Group who put together the Cancer Delivery Plan.

Currently GPs ‘are alert’ to the possibility of cancer, referring 80,000 patients a year with suspicious symptoms, the report said

But many of the symptoms are not cancer specific and only one in 10 of those referrals will end up as a cancer diagnosis.

Yet improving access to diagnostics will be an ‘enormous challenge’, the report points out due to shortages in equipment and staff in pathology, radiology and oncology.

The need for better access for GPs to specialist advice was also highlighted in the plan, which called for a ‘relentless drive towards earlier diagnosis’, an area in which Wales does poorly compared with other developed countries.

Launching the report, health secretary Vaughan Gething said spending on cancer services had risen from £347 million in 2011/12 to £409 million in 2014/15 and that cancer survival rates were improving year on year.

‘Despite all of this, there’s always more to do to ensure that we deliver the best possible cancer care for people here in Wales,’ he added.