6th August 2018

Changing Lung Cancer Pathway Reduces Waiting Times and Saves Money

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A change in referral procedures has resulted in halving waiting times for patients suspected of having lung cancer.

Since April last year, the Royal Free London NHS Trust Foundation has been referring patients suspected of having lung cancer directly for CT scans, rather than to an outpatient clinic. The results have proven to be very favourable; not only have waiting times dropped from 66 days to 29 days between referral and treatment, but also those whose results are negative are now informed within 12 days, down from 22 days.

The sooner patients receive treatment, the better are their chances of survival.

The previous system was criticised for being ‘complex, with a high number of referrals’ when it came to outpatient clinics. As fewer clinics are required under the new streamlined lung cancer pathway, it is simpler, quicker and has produced an estimated cost-saving of £50,000.

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘Changes in the pathway were born of the want and need to diagnose and treat patients with lung cancer more quickly given that survival outcomes are very poor, and quicker diagnosis can improve this.

‘Importantly, for those diagnosed with lung cancer, over the last 18 months, referral to treatment times have fallen from an average of 66 days to a recent monthly average of 29 days. The average time to which patients are informed they do not have lung cancer following referral has been reduced from 22 days to 12 days.

‘There have been significant cost savings in not having to organise extra target clinics. Existing clinics have been decompressed and overbooked to a much lesser extent, allowing for less waiting within clinics and more time in direct contact with lung cancer patients and their relatives and carers.’

However, the change in the lung cancer pathway has been treated with caution by GPs, who are concerned that the fall could be ‘at the expense of other referrals.’

A spokesperson for Londonwide LMCs said: ‘The dramatic fall in reported referral to treatment times under the lung cancer pathway is to be welcomed. But there is some concern that prioritisation of one pathway could be at the expense of other referrals.

‘Local GPs have suggested that an urgent review clinic could be helpful to ensure that waiting times do not increase for urgent non-cancer referrals falling outside the lung cancer pathway.’

Information taken from NHS Magazine Pulse