Doctors are being told to extend cancer tests to half a million more patients a year under new NICE cancer guidelines. It’s claimed that the move could prevent 5,000 deaths a year by speeding up diagnosis and ensuring more patients have a full range of treatment options available to them.
The guide drawn up by NICE is designed to be used by doctors and patients and signposts for the very first time the symptoms that could be indicative of one of 37 cancers. GPs can already request X-rays, blood tests and some scans, but under the new guidelines will be able to get fast-tracked endoscopy investigations and MRI or CT brain scan tests, historically ordered by a specialist following referral. The guidelines suggest great promise for increased diagnosis rates and the number of patients eligible for treatment at diagnosis.
But what do GPs think about the new guidance?
With pharma companies investing heavily in understanding how to optimise service design, e.g. by supporting the development of integrated care pathways; Adelphi was keen to understand what impact the guidelines would have.
Claire Nelson, one of Adelphi’s NHS Leads said “Service redesign to optimise diagnosis and management is critical in today’s NHS. Ensuring patients are treated at the right time, in the right place and with the right treatment is key. Pharma companies are increasingly looking to support the NHS to optimise both efficiency and patient service in this way e.g. by supporting early diagnosis to ensure curative treatments are an option for as many patients as possible”.
Adelphi wanted to better understand to what extent the new guidelines might underpin these efforts. We set out to investigate the extent to which GPs think they will be following the guide, what impact GPs think the guide is likely to have on patient outcomes, how easy they will be to implement and whether the GP service will need to change to accommodate the guide.
Although over half of the GPs surveyed were unsure of the extent to which the guidelines would be implemented in their practice, there was a strong consensus that they would lead to an improvement in patient outcomes.
Most felt the changes recommended by the guidelines would be easy to implement with only 12% feeling that substantial change to GP services would be required to accommodate the new protocols.
Rebecca Marshall-Clarke, Adelphi’s Oncology lead says “If adhered to these guidelines offer hope to patients whose early cancer symptoms are easy to miss. The guidelines empower GPs to fully investigate patients presenting with symptoms that could be linked to conditions such as myeloma, lung cancer and ovarian cancer, without the need for secondary care referral. These conditions often first present with symptoms such as cough or back pain, that are easily attributable to other benign causes. Pharma companies now have the opportunity to support the NHS by raising awareness of early indicators in these types of indications, so that GPs can diagnose early or rule them out’.