Wednesday 26 July 2017

Boost for cancer treatment as GPs get access to scans

More than eight in 10 GPs said patients with new clinically suspected cancer were waiting six weeks for assessment. Stock Image
More than eight in 10 GPs said patients with new clinically suspected cancer were waiting six weeks for assessment. Stock Image
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Efforts are under way to improve GPs' access to scans for patients who they suspect may have symptoms of cancer.

But gaps in the service still remain and more investment is needed to make fast diagnostic services available to all GPs.

It follows a survey last year showing that more than half of GPs did not have access to a fast-track system for "urgent patient referrals" - and 43pc needed a direct route to an ultrasound scan.

More than eight in 10 GPs said patients with new clinically suspected cancer were waiting six weeks for assessment, the survey carried out by the HSE and the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) revealed.

More than four-fifths of doctors said they had sent patients to a hospital emergency department to bypass difficulties in accessing services.

Asked what progress has been made, a spokeswoman for the HSE said access to ultrasound has been extended.

This will be prioritised further in the new cancer strategy to be published this year, which will set out the future direction of the services needed to improve the care and treatment of patients with the disease.

New guidelines for GPs to advise them on ovarian, pigmented lesion as well as head and neck cancers are also being developed.

The survey highlighted the opinion of GPs of the many positive changes that have taken place over the past 10 years, said the HSE.

These include the development of GP referral guidelines, electronic referral systems, rapid access cancer services, timely access to specialist care and e-learning education modules.

Meanwhile, the findings revealed just six-in-10 GPs said they were getting enough information about their patients' "post-treatment" needs.

Doctors also reported that four-in-10 of their patients who had a family history of cancer were requesting genetic testing.

The HSE said that in response to these two concerns it had developed a cancer survivor programme and a hereditary cancer programme.

"Both of these programmes will be implemented over the coming years," it said.

GPs are central to the care of cancer patients and are key to referring someone with potential symptoms for a diagnosis which can turn out to be positive for the disease.

Irish Independent

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