GPs to get power to fast-track patients for heart and lung checks

GPs will be given powers to send up to 1 million patients directly for fast-track checks in an attempt to speed up diagnosis of heart and lung conditions.

NHS officials in England say the scheme means hundreds of thousands of people will be able to get checked quickly instead of being stuck on long waiting lists to see a hospital specialist first.

GP practices will be able to directly order diagnostic checks for asthma, cardiovascular disease, heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), referring patients to hospital or community diagnostic centres.

At the moment, GP practices decide whether to refer a patient to a specialist or to send them straight for testing. However, these powers vary in how they are applied due to a lack of resources and confidence.

The additional route to testing could reduce the need for specialist consultation, easing pressure on hospitals, and help diagnose and treat patients faster.

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 heart failure, COPD and asthma early, so they can get the treatment they need to manage their condition well, and to prevent more serious conditions or illness from developing.

“Our plans to enhance GP direct access will enable thousands more to get a vital diagnosis sooner, and by capitalising on the additional capacity provided by more than 100 community diagnostic centres offering a ‘one-stop shop’ for tests in the community, patients can benefit from convenient triaging and testing near their homes – and importantly avoid a hospital admission or trip to A&E.”

It is hoped the initiative will also ease pressure on the health service in the run up to winter.

A similar system is already in place for cancer, which the NHS said has provided faster access for 80,000 patients who may not meet the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance threshold for an urgent referral.

Sarah MacFadyen, head of policy and external affairs at Asthma + Lung UK, said she welcomed the scheme because too many people with lung conditions were “waiting too long to get a diagnosis and the support they need”.

skip past newsletter promotion

However, other experts raised concerns about whether there would be sufficient numbers of healthcare professionals to conduct the checks and provide any treatment needed as a result.

John Maingay, director of policy and influencing at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Many people are facing extremely long waits for heart care in England, and improving access to vital diagnostic tests could help more people receive a diagnosis of heart failure sooner.

“However, it’s important that there are enough NHS staff in place to deliver these tests and any treatment that patients may need in order to address the ever-growing backlog of time-critical heart care.”


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.