Freedom granted for GPs to order direct heart checks

Across England GP practices will be able to order a host of checks to help accelerate the diagnosis of a range of heart conditions.

Currently GPs refer patients to specialists when approached about a suspected heart failure or lung problem. However, due to long wait times which were made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, people have been forced to wait for so much longer than they should have to.

man in white button up shirt holding black tablet computer

However, last year the ability to directly refer cancer patients to specialists was rolled out and is now being extended.

As it stands, a quarter of people are waiting longer than six weeks for a diagnostic test to check for heart and lung conditions – before the pandemic only 3-4% were.

NHS England said the diagnostic testing capacity was increasing with the rollout of one-stop community testing centres to supplement tests available in hospitals and it said the move would also free up the time of hospital doctors to focus on tackling the backlog in treatment.

Alongside heart failure, the increased access to testing is aimed at speeding up diagnosis for conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which causes breathing problems.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Royal College of GPs chair, said: ‘Any initiative to accelerate the process by which patients can be diagnosed and begin to receive any necessary treatment should be seen as a positive.

‘For this initiative to be successful, it is vital that diagnostic capacity – both in terms of testing and people to conduct and interpret tests – is sufficient.’

Dr Vin Diwakar, medical director for secondary care and transformation at NHS England, said: ‘We know how important it is to diagnose people with conditions like these early so they can get the treatment they need to manage their condition well and to prevent more serious conditions or illness from developing.’

GPs in some areas can already order diagnostic tests for these conditions directly, but NHS England said this marked the start of the national rollout.

Image: National Cancer Institute


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