Cancer Research UK: New initiatives aims to speed up breast and prostate cancer treatment in Fife

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A new initiative to cut cancer waiting times in Fife has been launched

The scheme will mean that patients who find a breast lump will get referred straight to a specialist clinic in a bid to start treatment quicker.

Funded by Cancer Research UK, the new programme is called Test, Evidence, Transition (TET) and the initiative hopes to accelerate innovations in the health system while reducing inequalities experienced by patients in cancer care.

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The pilot, which also covers Forth Valley, will see patients who find a lump and call their GP, referred directly to a breast assessment clinic without the need for an initial GP appointment and subsequent wait for a referral appointment. Health bosses say the aim is to “free up GP time, improve the patient experience and prevent delays in diagnosis” which is crucial in tackling the disease when it is most treatable.

Samantha Currie who survived breast cancer. Pic: ContributedSamantha Currie who survived breast cancer. Pic: Contributed
Samantha Currie who survived breast cancer. Pic: Contributed

In NHS Fife, a separate pilot project will see advanced specialist nurses leading the diagnostic process for those with prostate cancer symptoms to allow consultants to focus on more complex cases. Once patients are referred to the specialist team, they will then be in the care of a dedicated nurse-led team and patient navigators who will assess patients, arrange scans, book biopsies and refer patients quickly to a cancer care team for treatment where necessary.

Currently, the prostate diagnosis pathway is complex and often requires multiple appointments and waits for investigations and monitoring. Under the new system in Fife, the diagnostic process will be undertaken by advanced nurse practitioners who will be dedicated to prostate diagnosis, hopefully speeding up the process and freeing up consultants.

Both projects will be evaluated by researchers at the University of Stirling who will work with the NHS clinical teams to evaluate and develop the pathways over the next 18 months. If successful, the new pathways could be adopted permanently in Forth Valley and Fife as well as elsewhere in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

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Dr Erica Gadsby, University of Stirling lead on the project, said: “In NHS Forth Valley, we hope this new patient pathway will remove the need for that initial GP appointment, therefore freeing up valuable GP time, reducing inconvenience to the patient and speeding up the referral to the breast clinic.”

Juliette Murray, NHS Forth Valley’s deputy medical director for acute services and breast surgeon. Pic: Michael GillenJuliette Murray, NHS Forth Valley’s deputy medical director for acute services and breast surgeon. Pic: Michael Gillen
Juliette Murray, NHS Forth Valley’s deputy medical director for acute services and breast surgeon. Pic: Michael Gillen

Naser Turabi, director of evidence and implementation at Cancer Research UK, said: “We are delighted to support these new projects and hope taking a patient-focused approach will reap enormous benefits to the patients experiencing these new pathways in Scotland.

“If patients in these schemes are diagnosed faster and are able to access treatment more quickly improving their outcomes, then we hope this pathway could be available permanently to patients in the pilot areas - and adopted elsewhere in Scotland and across the UK.”

Currently in Forth Valley, people who find a breast lump are asked to contact their GP for an initial appointment who will then decide whether to refer the patient to a specialist breast clinic at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert. Under the new procedure, on calling their GP practice the patient will be asked screening questions by the GP’s receptionist who can then refer them directly to the local breast clinic at FVRH.

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