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NHS Wales can be among the world’s best for cancer care if big changes are made in how quickly it is diagnosed, says an international expert.

Wales and the other UK nations have some of the worst cancer survival rates in the developed world and this may be due in part to patients waiting too long for a diagnosis. As a result too many patients start treatment at a late stage when their cancer is well advanced or has become incurable.

Welsh health experts have just returned from a fact-finding visit to Denmark, which has improved how patients with less obvious symptoms are diagnosed.

One of the key changes introduced in Denmark was to develop a system where patients who are ill, but do not have clear symptoms of a specific cancer – can have diagnostic tests more quickly.
These can take place within a few days or even within a few hours of a GP making a referral.

Special “one stop shop” diagnostic centres have been set up at hospitals for those with more vague symptoms, while other open access centres are able to provide quick one-off tests or scans and to report back quickly to GPs.

Similar patients in Wales can wait weeks or even months for those tests.

Dr Tom Crosby, medical director of the Wales Cancer Network, said: “What they’ve demonstrated [in Denmark] is that what’s taking us weeks and months in Wales to diagnose patients, particularly with those vague and non specific symptoms, they’re now doing in a matter of days and there’s nothing they’re doing here that we can’t do in Wales.”

He said cancer patients in Wales generally have a very good experience in hospital but survival was not as good as it should be.

“This is more than just statistics, we know survival needs to improve but also it’s devastating for us to see patients who complained of vague or non specific symptoms for months to be ultimately diagnosed with incurable disease.”
But health bosses say they are confident that some of the changes introduced in Denmark can be replicated in Wales.

The full BBC Wales report can be seen here.

April 11th 2016
Taken from BBC Wales report

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