Woman in cancer meeting with a nurse

NHS to invest £20m into faster cancer diagnosis measures

More patients with suspected cancers could receive same day diagnosis following plans by the NHS to invest £20m into a package of measures to speed up cancer checks.

These include ‘skin snaps’ and rapid tests, which it is hoped will allow thousands more people to get potentially lifesaving cancer checks. Many of these methods were under consideration already, with the £20m financial backing aimed at speeding up the rollout of these plans.

Teledermatology is being used to diagnose skin cancer faster, with pictures being taken by a medical photographer sent to hospitals so diagnosis and treatment can happen quickly.

The technology is already being used in Leeds, York and Mid-Yorkshire, with a doctor reviewing an image of the patient’s skin for diagnosis.

New efforts to accelerate cancer diagnosis for prostate cancer is also seeing patients being directly referred for an MRI scan by nurses, rather than having to wait for an appointment with a consultant.

This has reduced multiple visits to a single visit, with all diagnostic tests able to be carried out on the same day.

Within the NHS Long Term Plan, the NHS made a commitment to catch three quarter of cancers early, when they are easier to treat. This would be up from around half caught early at present.

Cancer care referrals and treatment levels are now reportedly back to pre-pandemic levels, after a period of disruption, with some of the latest data showing more than 207,000 people were checked in May 2021 - around 100,000 more than in the same month last year.

In the same period, over 25,000 people began cancer treatment - the majority of which started within a month of diagnosis.

Dame Cally Palmer, NHS National Director for Cancer, said: “The NHS has prioritised cancer treatment throughout the coronavirus pandemic and, alongside caring for 405,000 people with coronavirus in hospitals and delivering over 65 million vaccines, more than 350,000 people have also started treatment for cancer since it began.

“We know that some patients did not come forward but, thanks to the huge efforts of our staff, we’re seeing referral and treatment levels recover.

“From cancer symptom hotlines to skin snaps and rapid triage, NHS staff are once again going to great lengths to ensure that those who are coming forward for checks can continue to be seen quickly, so that cancer can be caught at an earlier stage”.

Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer in England, added: “We know that some people were reluctant to seek help during the pandemic so it is good news that we are now seeing higher numbers coming forward for checks.

“Cancer hasn’t gone away during the pandemic and we would rather see you sooner with a cancer that can be easily treated, than later with one that may be more difficult.

“Our message remains the same – if you have a worrying symptom, please do get it checked – the NHS is ready for you”.

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As was outlined by Sir Simon Stevens when the NHS announced their green plans back in 2020, 5,700 lives could be saved each year by improved air quality. Even more could see their overall health improve and be in a position to self-manage their conditions, rather than requiring NHS treatment. Covid-19 has already left the NHS with a sizeable treatment backlog, so anything which can be done to improve patient health and reduce demand is beneficial for all.

Working together, we can help the NHS realise its green ambitions as per the Net-Zero National Health Service report and its ambitious 2040 target. Join us on August 25, 2021 for our Net-Zero NHS event, where we will be joined by health sector leaders and innovators for a day of sharing best practice and networking.

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