Thursday, 7 July, 2022
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UK pharmacists to assess symptoms, refer patients to cancer specialists

Pharmacists in the UK will now be allowed to check people for potential signs of cancer and refer them for hospital check-ups. The National Health Service (NHS) plan is designed to speed up cancer diagnoses.

Also, from this month, people who may have liver cancer, which is closely linked to heavy alcohol consumption, will be able to get scanned in the back of trucks. These will be parked near GP surgeries, in town centres, at supermarkets and close to homeless hostels and food banks, to encourage groups who often do not seek advice about cancer symptoms for months after they have appeared, such as men and those in poorer areas.

The Guardian reports that the UK has a poor record of detecting cancer early compared with other European countries.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS England’s chief executive, said diagnosis at an earlier, more treatable stage, would help reduce by three quarters the increasing numbers of cancer cases in England – by 2028.

The initiative, she added, means that anyone with lumps, a cough, bleeding or other cancer symptoms no longer has to see a GP before being referred to a specialist. It will relieve some of the workload from busy family doctors and give patients another option.

However, GP leaders have warned that pharmacists could miss cases of cancer unless they were trained in detection of the disease to the same high level as family doctors.

Hundreds of pharmacists have already indicated their interest in becoming the first people to be trained to take on this new role. They will be able to refer people whose symptoms they believe may be signs of cancer to have diagnostic tests, such as a scan or endoscopy.

Prof Martin Marshall, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs already work closely with colleagues in community pharmacy and we have great respect for their skills.

“What’s vital is that those pharmacists taking part in the scheme have the appropriate training and support – both to identify potential signs of cancer and to support patients who may be concerned or anxious – and that there is enough capacity in onward services to cope with increased demand against existing backlogs.”

NHS England is also launching a new programme of genetic testing for mutations of the breast cancer gene among people of Jewish heritage, who are 10 times more likely to have them than the general population.

 

The Guardian article – Pharmacists to assess cancer symptoms and refer patients to specialists (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Breast screening women in their 40s to save lives – long-term UK study

 

CT scan catches 70% of lung cancers at early stage — SUMMIT study

 

UK’s experiment with cancer drugs’ funding ‘a failure’

 

British GPs and practice staff quitting over face-to-face appointments

 

 

 

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