The NHS must find new ways to tackle delayed diagnosis of blood cancers, according to a new report from the charity Bloodwise.
Repeated patient experience surveys have shown how a significant proportion of patients – current around a third – need three or more visits to a GP to get a diagnosis. Bloodwise calls for a target that reduces this proportion by ten percentage points by 2024.
The charity also says that the percentage of blood cancers diagnosed as emergencies should be reduced from 28% to 19% (the average for all cancers) by 2028.
It warns that NHS England plans to tackle cancer diagnosis delays may not benefit some blood cancer patients. The current plans are based on staging information which is not available for some blood cancers, such as acute myeloid leukaemia. Bloodwise calls for proxy information to be developed for unstageable cancers.
They recommend that NHS guidance to GPs should emphasise the use of routine blood tests to rule out myeloma. Doctors should also ensure that patients are offered repeat appointments to ensure that lymphoma diagnosis is not delayed when it is suspected.
The charity’s chief executive Gemma Peters said: “This report lays bare how thousands of people in England with blood cancer are being diagnosed too late.
“In most cases, blood cancer symptoms start several weeks or even several months before they need emergency treatment, so the fact that around three out of ten people are ending up in A&E shows that patients are slipping through the net. These delays are costing a significant number of lives a year, as well as leading to needless physical and mental harm to patients.
“Blood cancer is the third biggest cause of cancer deaths in this country. If NHS England is to achieve the Government’s ambition to improve early diagnosis and survival rates, they must take urgent action to tackle the unnecessary delays in treating people with blood cancer.”
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