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Patients with Cancer Symptoms Could Bypass GP for Scans

Patients with Cancer Symptoms Could Bypass GP for Scans

Health Secretary Suggests Radical Approach to Reduce NHS Waiting Lists

Patients with cancer symptoms could bypass their GP in the future and go straight for a scan, the health secretary has suggested, in the latest “radical” attempt by the government to cut huge NHS waiting lists.

Proposals to Design Out Bottlenecks

The suggestion, which comes as the government is expected to reduce the number of NHS cancer waiting time targets, could form part of proposals to “design out bottlenecks” in the NHS system, Steve Barclay said in an interview.

Health department officials are reportedly working on proposals that would mean some patients experiencing cancer symptoms could go straight to an NHS diagnostic centre – or “one-stop shop” – without a GP referral.

“We are very much looking at those patient pathways,” Barclay told the Daily Telegraph. “Where there are bottlenecks in the system of referral from the GP, is there scope to go direct to the relevant diagnostic test or to the clinician?

“Breast cancer is a good example because almost always the GP refers on … and therefore there’s an opportunity to design out bottlenecks in the system.”

Streamlining NHS Cancer Care

The government has been consulting on measures to streamline NHS cancer care by replacing the nine existing cancer targets with just three and scrapping entirely the current target of all patients seeing a specialist within two weeks of an urgent referral for cancer tests by a GP.

Latest figures show that only 59% of patients in England started their first cancer treatment within two months of an urgent GP referral, far below the current 85% target set by the government.

Criticism from Breast Cancer UK

Thalie Martini, chief executive of Breast Cancer UK, said the charity had not been consulted on the changes to cancer targets. “The government does not have a handle on cancer, from prevention to diagnosis and treatment.”

She added: “Not only are the government failing those with cancer, but by not having a detailed and comprehensive cancer strategy, they are also letting down every future patient.”

Keir Starmer’s Response

Keir Starmer has also responded to the revised targets accusing the government of “moving the goalposts” on cancer care.

Unlocking Efficiencies

Barclay also said he had commissioned former Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe to look at how the Department of Health and Social Care can “unlock efficiencies” to make savings.

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