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Cancer referrals set to bypass specialists

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Patients with suspected cancer may be referred for tests without the need to see a specialist first, the health secretary is set to announce.

At a cancer conference on Tuesday, Andrew Lansley plans to tell delegates that more needs to be done to ensure that patients are diagnosed with cancer earlier.

Currently some GPs have access to tests in primary care, which include chest X-rays.

However other scans must be ordered by a specialist in hospital - which means that the patient gets referred there first by their GP.

Under the new plans, GPs will be able to order tests themselves, which might include ultrasounds for ovarian cancer, MRI scans for brain tumours and colonoscopies for bowel cancer.

Doctors will still have the option to send patients through the rapid referral system to see a specialist within two weeks.

Some £25 million has been earmarked from the NHS budget to support the move through 2011-12, which will fund up to 150,000 extra tests.

The amount of cash put forward will increase in subsequent years.

Mr Lansley said late diagnosis is the main reason for England’s survival rates from cancer lagging behind other countries.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Is this a good move?
    Maybe it would be better to speed up the referral process to the specialist area rather than do this. Would a GP be aware af the particular scans or tests needed for every specialist area?
    This might end up causing more unnecessary tests and slow down the diagnosis to treatment time, thereby lowering suvival rates.

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