Innovative new scheme launched in Bedford to help cut cancer diagnosis time

Delay in the diagnosis of cancer is thought to be one of the contributors to poorer survival rates in the UK

By Laura Hutchinson
Thursday, 18th November 2021, 9:50 am
Updated Thursday, 18th November 2021, 9:52 am

An innovative new scheme to speed up cancer diagnosis has been launched in Bedford and Milton Keynes.

Delays in cancer diagnosis are thought to be one of the reasons for poorer cancer survival rates in the UK - as patients suffering from symptoms that could indicate several different cancers go back and forth between primary and secondary care.

The new Non-Specific Symptoms (NSS) pathway aims to help these patients by providing a route to reduce the length of time to diagnosis.

A new 'pathway' aims to speed up cancer diagnosis for patients

If a patient is referred to this dedicated pathway, a virtual Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) - made up of a range of specialists - will determine the most appropriate next steps for the patient.

In one case, a 64-year-old woman who had been suffering from symptoms including weight loss, fatigue and weakness in her upper limbs had seen her GP over 10 times and been referred to many different services in a bid to get to the bottom of her symptoms.

But once she was referred to the NSS pathway, her case and all investigations could be reviewed by an MDT - allowing further investigations to be carried out and an appropriate decision to be made on her care.

Dr Rory Harvey, Lead Clinician NSS pathway, said: “Timing is incredibly important when it comes to diagnosing and treating cancer, the earlier it is diagnosed the better the outcome for the patient.

“Sometimes presenting symptoms do not clearly point to a primary cancer site or investigations of a site prove unrevealing, in both these circumstances the NSS pathway provides a concerned GP and the patient access to a specific diagnostic service.

“The pathway is enabling these patients to be assessed by a Multi-Disciplinary Team of specialists, to assess the possibility of a cancer or other serious diagnosis, to explain their symptoms, and to enable rapid access to appropriate treatment.”