A NEW system to speed up diagnosis for patients with suspected colorectal cancer has been introduced,

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) has issued guidance to GPs to help them determine whether patients with symptoms of colorectal cancer can be referred directly for an investigation, bypassing an outpatient appointment and saving time.

More than 500 people are diagnosed every year in North Wales with bowel, colon and rectal cancer.

It is hoped that sending patients straight to test will mean they are diagnosed sooner and can start their treatment as quickly as possible.

Dr Claire Fuller, consultant oncologist and the health board’s Colorectal Clinical Advisory Group Lead, said: “Time is of the essence when diagnosing a cancer; the earlier a patient can be diagnosed, the sooner they can start treatment and this can potentially improve their overall prognosis.

“Historically, patients with suspected colorectal cancer have been referred by their GP for an appointment with a consultant, where they will have a physical examination before being sent for a test, like a colonoscopy.

“The new ‘Straight to Test’ guidance gives GPs the know-how and the mechanism to send patients directly for an investigation, eliminating the consultant appointment and saving precious time.

“This has been happening piecemeal across the health board for some time, but this is the first time we have standardised the guidance and made it our ‘business as usual’ approach.”

The guidance was written with input from consultants, gastroenterologists and GPs themselves.

Jenny Liddell, a GP at Corwen Family Practice, said: “One of the biggest challenges we face as a GP is referring our patients into the complex hospital system, because it’s not always clear what the process is

“The new guidance helps us determine quickly and with ease which patients are eligible and how to get our referral through the system as smoothly as possible.”

The standardised ‘Straight to Test’ guidance has been introduced as part of an ambitious new programme between the Health Board and Macmillan Cancer Support to redesign the way cancer services are delivered in North Wales.