More people are coming forward to get checked for cancer thanks to awareness campaigns - but concerns were raised that care could 'bottleneck' as people struggle to get GP appointments.
At the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on October 11, councillor Kay Burley (Labour, Kempston Central and East Ward) asked representatives from BLMK CCG if the ‘it could be cancer’ advertisements were working.
Dr James Ramsay, clinical lead for cancer at BLMK, said, “We have certainly seen spikes in referrals which correlate with some of the national and local messaging and advertising that goes out.
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“We align to that messaging, a good example would be the number of increased referrals into breast cancer pathways.
“To meet that increase in demand our acute provider organisations put on additional clinical resources.”
A 'pathway' is the route a patient takes from their first contact with the NHS (usually their GP), through referral, to the completion of their treatment.
Councillor Hilde Hendrickx (LibDems, Newnham Ward) was concerned that primary care could be a bottleneck for people wanting to get checked.
“At the last meeting, we heard that demand is very high for GP services, and that GPs are, frankly, struggling to meet that demand,” she said. “It requires quite a bit of persistence to get hold of a GP appointment.
“My concern is that some people may just give up when they do need to see a GP urgently.
“How are you supporting Primary Care and what can be done to really make sure that people get that first appointment?” she asked.
Dr Ramsay replied, “We have set up clinical forums between primary and secondary care to have those ongoing conversations.
“We can talk about how things have been adjusted as a consequence to how pathways have changed.
“The regular forums are where we can have those clinical conversations to support one another.
“What we've been doing from a secondary care perspective is reiterating that need for face-to-face consultations, particularly where patients are raising concerns about worrying symptoms.
“GPs have assured us that their services are open, and they are available for face-to-face consultations. Particularly where patients may have concerns around underlying malignancy and cancers.”
Kathy Nelson, BLMK CCG head of cancer network, added, “We are exploring, as part of our transformational program around rapid diagnostics, at how we can expand the referral pathway so that there could be other opportunities for patients to present.
“In years to come we might have patients doing a self-referral.”