Our Policy on diagnostic Pathways

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Most of the time, the first stage in diagnosing cancer is a visit to the GP.

The job of a GP is an extremely difficult one – the average GP will see fewer than 8 new cases of cancer per year, and most of these will be more common cancers such as breast, bowel, lung and prostate. 

In addition, many of the symptoms of cancer are also symptoms of other diseases that may be more common. It is therefore vital that GPs have the appropriate tools at their disposal to make their job easier. Being able to refer patients directly for key tests is one of these tools.

In ‘Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer’ the Government committed £450m to improving early diagnosis of cancer, including ensuring GPs direct access to four key diagnostic tests:

  • Chest X-Ray
  • Brain MRI
  • Ultrasound
  • Colonoscopy/Flexible sigmoidoscopy

We welcomed this commitment but there is still variation across England about access and use of GP direct access. We would like to see more being done to ensure that the most recent cancer strategy recommendation, that “NHS England should mandate that GPs have direct access to key investigative tests”, is being implemented. 

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