Pharmacists 'should be given the power to diagnose people with cancer'
Pharmacists should be given the power to diagnose people with cancer and refer them to specialists, experts say
- A report has today said pharmacies should serve as ‘early diagnosis hubs’
- Pharmacists are often best placed to spot early signs of cancer, experts say
- They could refer people with symptoms directly for X-rays, the report said
Pharmacists should be given the power to diagnose people with cancer and refer them to specialists, experts have said.
A report by University College London said pharmacies should serve as ‘early diagnosis hubs’ in order to improve cancer survival rates.
The call was backed by the Royal College of Pharmacists and the British Lung Foundation, who said pharmacists are often best placed to spot early symptoms of lung cancer.
The report by the UCL School of Pharmacy laid out a strategy to save 5,000 lives and double lung cancer survival rates by 2030.
A report by University College London said pharmacies should serve as ‘early diagnosis hubs’ in order to improve cancer survival rates
As part of the strategy, it said that pharmacists could refer people with persistent lung cancer symptoms – such as breathlessness and a cough – directly for a chest X-ray without seeing their GP.
The report added: ‘Community pharmacies provide a convenient and accessibly place for people to present with symptoms that they may be concerned about.
‘This could be a pivotal point at which people could be appropriately referred into either general practice or maybe in the future, directly into secondary care for further clinical assessment and diagnosis.
‘Community pharmacists and their teams could provide screening services to enable early cancer diagnosis.’
Alison Cook, director of policy at the British Lung Foundation: ‘The potential is huge. Community and hospital pharmacists have an important role to play in improving prevention, treatment and care.
‘Community pharmacies are where people go when they have persistent cough, and especially in deprived areas it is often easier for patients to see a pharmacist than a GP.’
HIGH STREET PHARMACISTS TO OFFER ON-THE-SPOT HEALTH CHECKS
High street pharmacists are to offer shoppers on-the-spot health checks as part of an NHS drive to cut heart disease, it was reported in September.
NHS bosses announced that free blood pressure checks, cholesterol tests and mobile heart scans will be offered in pharmacies.
The announcement – timed to coincide with the world’s largest meeting of cardiologists in Paris – was part of an NHS plan to prevent 150,000 heart attacks and strokes within a decade.
Experts speaking at the European Society of Cardiology congress said the approach would help reach the millions who are at risk yet rarely go to their GP so have no idea of the danger.
Pharmacists are encouraged to offer the checks to customers – although it will be up to them who they target.
Dr Cook added that it makes sense for pharmacists to be able to refer patients directly to hospital, rather than sending them back to their GP for a referral to save patients’ time.
She said: ‘If I’m standing in front of a pharmacists and I’m over 55 and a smoker than why can’t I just go straight for a hospital scan, instead of to a GP.’
Experts have also called for lung health screening programmes to be rolled out, and for greater investment in cancer drugs.
The report said: ‘One opportunity for 2020s could be to develop pharmacies as not only healthy living and self-care support centres but as early diagnosis hubs. In the oncology context this would have the objective of enhancing prevention and when possible identifying cancers before they have metastasised.
‘The introduction of technologies such as AI backed risk assessment and diagnostic programmes or blood sample based cancer testing will offer pharmacies new opportunities to contribute to health improvement.
‘Such service extensions could either be funded by the NHS or – should there prove to be sufficient willingness to pay on the part of those who could benefit – directly by the public.’
Pharmacists have been handed greater responsibility in recent years. In September, the NHS announced that millions of Britons will soon be able to get statins directly from pharmacies without a prescription.
Blood pressure checks, cholesterol tests and mobile heart scans have also been offered in pharmacies since October as part of an NHS drive to cut heart disease.
Pharmacists are encouraged to offer the checks to customers – although they will determine who they target.
Source: Read Full Article