Introducing a serious non-specific symptoms pathway

Four localities (Sunderland, South Tees, South Tyneside and Newcastle) are piloting a ‘serious non-specific’ or vague symptoms service for patients who do not meet the current criteria for urgent referral to a specialist cancer pathway.

These patients often experience problems reaching a diagnosis and delays can occur if they are referred to more than one clinical specialty. The new pathway will offer access to a range of tests and a clinical assessment of the results will determine whether further cancer investigations are required. The aim is to reduce time to diagnosis for patients with malignancy, and to ensure that people who don’t need cancer services will not be referred to them.

This work will follow guidance and learning from the national ACE programme and be evaluated with a view to extending to other areas. For more information about ACE follow the link here: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/diagnosis/accelerate-coordinate-evaluate-ace-programme

Finding lung cancer early:

Lung cancer is the cause of the greatest number of excess deaths in our population. It is survivable if found early but can be difficult to detect and we are looking at new ways of finding early stage disease. Five areas (South Tyneside, South Tees, Sunderland, Gateshead and Newcastle) are trialling different models of early awareness and detection – from community-based work focussed on lung health to clinical case-finding among those at higher risk – e.g. people diagnosed with COPD and other serious respiratory conditions.

The case-finding projects aim to offer low-dose CT scans to those meeting higher risk criteria and following up with second scans and urgent referral where necessary. Clearly it is important for patients to attend annual reviews, which is where clinical assessment for entry into these pilot trials will take place.