GPs should be able to refer patients for urgent diagnostic checks within a week, according to guidance published by the RCGP in tandem with the Royal College of Radiologists and the Society and College of Radiographers.
Routine checks should be done within two weeks, and most test results should be available within one working day, it says.
The report also calls for a rethink on the location of diagnostic imaging tools, with more moving into community settings and large practices where appropriate.
But it warns that the shift must avoid destabilising existing hospital services.
‘Comprehensive clinical imaging services in the NHS provide patients, GPs and other referrers and commissioners with direct access to essential core services. Commissioners and providers should be cognisant of the potential risk of threatening viability of such core services within NHS trust organisations through the introduction of new providers,’ the report warns.
RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada said: ‘By working together and using this guidance, GPs, radiologists and radiographers can really make a difference to patients needing scans, be it urgent or routine. It will help CCGs to highlight where current services need to change and where they could become more localised.
‘Making the process more straightforward, and ultimately quicker, will also lead to greater peace of mind for patients as it will take away a lot of the anxiety and uncertainty that waiting times can cause.’
GPs have faced repeated blocks on access to diagnostics, with PCTs restricting access to cut costs. GP reported earlier this year that one in 10 GPs had been refused access to ovarian cancer scans.