East Lancashire Hospitals chosen as ‘faster diagnosis standard’ site

Published Wednesday 2 November 2016 at 12:11

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) has been chosen by NHS England to lead a national pilot scheme to look at ways of speeding up the diagnosis of cancer.

In partnership with NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group, ELHT’s Cancer Services team will test and evaluate ways to speed up the diagnosis pathway initially for patients referred with suspected lung and upper GI (oesophageal and gastric) cancers.

The East Lancashire 28-day Cancer Pilot is a direct result of recommendations by the Independent Cancer Taskforce that from 2020, all patients will wait no longer than 28 days after a GP referral for suspected cancer to hear if they do or do not have cancer.

Trust’s Clinical Lead for Cancer, Dr Jane McNicholas, said:

For people who are worried they may have either of these cancers, waiting for those all-important tests result is a nerve-wracking time. The East Lancashire 28-day Cancer Pilot will make this period of uncertainty much shorter for more patients. For those who get the all clear, they will have peace of mind sooner. Those who sadly have cancer will get treatment much quicker and we will save lives as a result.

The East Lancashire 28-day Cancer Pilot will mean that for patients referred with suspected lung cancer,  a Consultant Physician and a Consultant Radiologist will conduct a ‘virtual clinic’ to view and decide the next step based on the patient’s chest x-ray and CT scan results before the patient attends for their first outpatient appointment.

This means that at the time the patient attends for their first outpatient appointment, the next steps will have already been organised.

For patients referred with a suspected Upper GI cancer, a CT scan will be performed within 24-48 hours of the initial gastroscopy procedure.

Juliette Brookfield, the Trust’s Business Manager for Cancer Services said:

This is a fantastic opportunity for the Trust to change the way it works, initially for our lung and Upper GI patients, so the waiting time to be given a diagnosis (or a diagnosis of ‘no cancer’) will be much quicker for our patients in East Lancashire.

This will lead to an incredible improvement in the experience for patients who often have to wait several weeks to receive their diagnosis. It also means the Trust can share its knowledge with the national cancer team to make faster cancer diagnosis available for patients across England.

To ensure faster cancer diagnosis meets the needs of patients, the project group working on the new 28-day Cancer Pilot includes a patient representative who will seek the views of other patients over the next 12 months as new ways of providing diagnostic services are tested.

As well as speeding up two cancer pathways, the Trust will be working with NHS England on how to measure the ‘diagnosing by day 28 from the point of referral’ target for all cancers which the Government plans to introduce across the UK by 2020.

Juliette Brookfield added:

While the pilot will initially be for lung and upper GI cancers, after the testing is complete, the same faster diagnosis will be available across all cancer tumour groups by 2020.

One of the busiest hospital Trusts in the UK, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust provides oncology services for all main ‘common tumours’, in addition to being a tertiary referral centre for hepato-biliary, head & neck and urological cancers.

In an average month, the Trust will see 50 GP referrals for a suspected lung cancer and up to 200+ referrals for a suspected Upper GI cancer, although thankfully less than 1 in 3 will have cancer.

The pilot scheme is currently being ‘set up’ and work will commence this month (November) for an initial period of 12 months.

ELHT Consultant Physician Dr Fawad Zaman, said:

As part of the new 28-day cancer pilot, we are hopeful that most of our patients will know within 28 days whether they have a cancer, or not.

One very important thing to remember is that all cancer patients should be treated with 62 days from the date they are referred by their GP and the Trust continues to work hard to ensure this target is achieved.

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