GPs launch online triage system to streamline GI cancer diagnosis

Bradford GPs have developed an online triaging system which will filter out patients with upper GI cancer symptoms and refer them directly for diagnostic tests to avoid delays waiting for a GP appointment.

The system, accessible online before a patient visits their GP, will allow those with symptoms that could indicate upper GI cancer to bypass their GP and be referred directly for diagnostic tests.

Bradford Districts CCG said this fast-track system would help patients avoid delays waiting for appointments or tests results, allowing for earlier diagnosis, faster treatment and better outcomes.

The scheme will be piloted at the Westcliffe Group, which encompasses four practices near Bradford and 50,000 patients, with hopes to roll the scheme out across Bradford or nationally if it proves a success. It is funded by the Health Foundation charity.

Patients will log on to the system remotely and answer a selection of questions to determine whether they should be sent for tests such as ultrasound, endoscopy, be referred to a specialist clinic or book a GP appointment.

Upper GI cancer symptoms

Symptoms for upper GI cancer are varied, with the most common being difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain, vomiting, hoarse voice and long-lasting cough.

Various organs can be affected, including the oesophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, gall bladder or bile ducts.

The practices involved - The Westcliffe Medical Centre, The Willows Medical Centre, Cowgill Surgery and Thornton and Denholme Medical Practice - have informed staff about the new system and promoted it in waiting rooms and on websites.

The scheme forms the third branch of a £1.5m Innovation for Improvement programme funded by the Health Foundation through the Westcliffe Group.

Dr Pam Rawal, a GPSI in gastroenterology at Cowgill Surgery, led the team developing the online referral form.

She said: ‘We are delighted to have the opportunity to change how we can offer healthcare services that will help us beat cancer through earlier diagnosis.

‘Many patients over 55 have problems swallowing, which could be a symptom of oesophageal cancer or something less serious like an ulcer, but they put off going to the GP or struggle to get an appointment.

‘Having the online referral form saves a lot of time and can get a patient into the system very quickly, so they can find out what’s causing their problem and get fast treatment. Thankfully, many patients’ symptoms won’t mean they have cancer, but for the few that do the new e-form will speed up their diagnosis and could lead to much improved outcomes.’

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