According to the Health Watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) around 5,000 lives could be saved each year if GPs follow new guidelines on cancer diagnosis.
The new cancer diagnosis guidelines prepared by NICE have been produced for England and will also be taken into consideration in Northern Ireland and Wales.
Professor Mark Baker, Clinical Practice Director at NICE has stated that the new policy would save a “tangible number” of lives.
The new guidelines make wide-ranging changes to previous recommendations by encouraging GPs to consider cancer as a possibility sooner rather than later.
The current guidelines recommend GPs to firstly consider what type of cancer the patient may have and then to cross check with possible symptoms.
The new guidelines will now simply focus on key symptoms that a patient may be showing.
NICE is hopeful that this will allow patients to have tests and investigations conducted more quickly and efficiently, allowing diagnosis to be made sooner rather than later. According to some experts, this could mean the difference between life and death for some patients.
Professor Willie Hamilton, a GP and Professor of Primary Care Diagnostics at the University of Exeter who helped to develop the updated guidelines, said: “This guideline is about getting the right patients to the right tests at the right time.
“Traditionally, GPs have always had some tests available such as blood tests, X-rays and some scans. This guidance expands this by bringing some tests that have been traditionally thought to be hospital tests under the wing of GPs. It will open the door for smarter testing so that people with cancer will receive their diagnosis much earlier. There is no doubt in my mind that this guideline will help to save lives.”
The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) welcomed the new guidelines, however they fear that there may not be enough capacity for the extra scans and checks that are likely to arise due to the new guidelines. They warned that these new guidelines could cause a backlog of patients and could push an already strained NHS onto its last legs.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP said: “It would be regrettable if something that was so well-intentioned resulted in patients being worse off”
If you or a loved one have suffered due to late diagnosis or misdiagnosis of cancer, please feel free to call us for a no obligation discussion on 0116 254 7456.