GPs are being encouraged by NHS England to send more people directly for cancer scans in a bid to speed up diagnosis.

This is because at the moment people with vague symptoms can face long waits for tests which could then delay their start for necessary treatment.

GPs would be able to use their clinical judgment to order scans for symptoms such as coughs, fatigue and dizziness, which cuts out the step of needing to see a specialist.

About one in five cancer cases (67,000) are currently detected after routine testing following referral, meaning people can face unnecessary delays.

The Bolton News: People can face unnecessary delays on starting treatment for cancerPeople can face unnecessary delays on starting treatment for cancer (Image: PA)

GPs ordering these checks directly could cut waiting time to as little as four weeks, NHS England claimed.

Hundreds of thousands of hospital appointments could also be freed up by reducing the need for a specialist consultation first, it added.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard is set to tell the NHS Providers conference in Liverpool: “GPs are already referring record numbers of patients for urgent cancer referrals, so much so that the shortfall in people coming forward for cancer checks caused by the pandemic has now been eradicated.

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“This new initiative builds on that progress, supporting GPs to provide more opportunities for testing across the country for people who have vague symptoms.

“By sending patients straight to testing, we can catch and treat more cancers at an earlier stage, helping us to deliver on our NHS long term plan’s ambitions to diagnose three-quarters of cancers at stages one or two when they are easier to treat.”

Dr Katharine Halliday, president of the Royal College of Radiologists, said: “For a patient with cancer, every day counts. Quicker diagnosis means less invasive treatments, better recovery and better outcomes.”