NHS: Cancer patients could skip GP waiting lists and go straight for scan, says Health Secretary

There were 7.6m people waiting to start treatment at the end of June.
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Patients with cancer symptoms could potentially skip a GP appointment and instead go straight for a scan, the Health Secretary has suggested.

The suggestion, from an interview with Steve Barclay in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, is the latest proposal floated amid ongoing pressure on the health service.

It comes as ministers face an uphill struggle to cut waiting lists, with 7.6m people waiting to start treatment at the end of June. It follows reports this week that targets to ensure patients see a specialist within two weeks of being urgently referred by their GP for suspected cancer could be scrapped.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay. (Picture: Kim Mogg/Getty/Adobe)Health Secretary Steve Barclay. (Picture: Kim Mogg/Getty/Adobe)
Health Secretary Steve Barclay. (Picture: Kim Mogg/Getty/Adobe)

That came after the latest data revealed cancer wait times in England remain well below targets set by the government and NHS.

According to The Telegraph, proposals being worked on in the Department of Health would see some patients skipping a visit to a GP and instead going straight to an NHS diagnostic centre.

“We are very much looking at those patient pathways,” Mr Barclay told the paper.

“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.”

This is not the first time such a proposal has been floated, but the prospect of bypassing GPs is likely to raise questions about feasibility.

Community diagnostic centres have become a key plank in the government’s plan to cut waiting lists, a key pledge for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Mr Barclay also said he had commissioned former M&S boss Steve Rowe to look at how the Department of Health can find efficiency savings.

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