Diagnosing cancer in English community pharmacies

In the UK, cancer is often diagnosed at more advanced stages compared to other high-income countries, leading to poorer outcomes. This issue has been exacerbated by reduced access to general practice appointments, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic. Timely cancer diagnosis is critical as even short delays can significantly reduce survival rates. To address this, NHS England proposed involving community pharmacies in cancer detection with pharmacists to refer patients for diagnostic tests. However, the current pilot schemes have adopted a limited approach, focusing on referrals to GPs or urgent hospital assessments rather than direct testing. Community pharmacies are accessible without appointments and are particularly well-positioned to serve deprived populations who may face barriers to accessing general practice. Despite their potential, pharmacies face challenges including high demand, staff shortages, and the need for additional training and infrastructure to handle cancer referrals effectively. The feasibility and impact of these initiatives remain uncertain, requiring thorough evaluation of the ongoing pilots to determine their effectiveness and practicality in improving cancer diagnosis and outcomes. Read the full article here
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