Private Business Intermediaries

Trial to allow patients to self-refer themselves for cancer tests

02/03/2015 | By Freedom Health Insurance
NHS England has recently launched plans which aim to improve survival rates for those with cancer and save 8,000 more lives every year (1). 
A key part of the initiative is to test innovative approaches to diagnose cancers more quickly and patients in the 60 trial areas will be offered the option to self-refer for diagnostic tests if they suspect they have symptoms that may signal cancer.
According to NHS England, some cancers are being diagnosed late and this is contributing to the UK survival rates for some cancers being below the average in Europe. 
With new figures from Cancer Research UK suggesting that 1 in 2 people in the UK who were born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime (2), the trial aims to evaluate ways to diagnose cancer earlier and give people better treatment and care. 
The initiative also includes other plans to speed up diagnosis including lowering the symptom guidance thresholds for GP referrals and testing multi-disciplinary diagnostic centres where a number of tests can all be carried out on the same day (1).
Cancer Research UK reports that more than 331,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in the UK in 2011 which equates to about 910 every day.  They also say that the UK has seen large increases in cancer cases strongly linked to lifestyle, such as liver, kidney, oral and skin cancers, with around 42% of cancer cases now linked to lifestyle factors (2).
The taskforce, chaired by Cancer Research UK’s Chief Executive Harpal Kumar, will tackle cancer on three fronts:  improved prevention, faster diagnosis and enhanced treatment, care and aftercare for patients diagnosed with cancer (1).
Kumar said: “We…know that many more people will be diagnosed with cancer in the years ahead.  Cancer Research UK is projecting an increase of a third in the number of cases over the next 15 years. So the time is right to set new ambitions and to take a fresh look at how we will meet this need.”
NHS England’s Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, said: “Cancer survival rates in England are at an all-time high, but too many patients are still being diagnosed late – up to one in four only when they present in A&E. So it’s time for a fresh look at how we can do even better – with more focus on prevention, earlier diagnosis and modern radiotherapy and other services so that over the next five years we can save at least 8000 more lives a year.”

1. NHS, 2015. NHS launches new bid to beat cancer and save thousands of lives, NHS England, 11th January. Available here.
2. Cancer Research UK, 2015. All Cancers Combined – Cancer Statistics, Cancer Research UK [PDF]. Available here