GP access to diagnostic tests

ISB Standard Number: ISB 1577

As part of the NAEDI initiatives the DH are committing additional funding over the next four years to enable GPs to have better access to selected diagnostic tests.

Following advice from the Cancer Diagnostics Advisory Board, it is the DH view that GPs need to be able directly to access the following tests for patients for whom the two week urgent referral pathway is not appropriate, but symptoms require further investigation:

  • chest x ray: to support the diagnosis of lung cancer;
  • non-obstetric ultrasound: to support the diagnosis of ovarian and other abdomino-pelvic cancers;
  • flexible-sigmoidoscopy/colonoscopy: to support the diagnosis of bowel cancer; and
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) brain: to support the diagnosis of brain cancer.

Linked to this the DH and other partners, are working together to ensure that data are routinely collected about GP usage of these tests, so that GPs can benchmark their use of them. These data will be published, alongside data about GPs’ usage of the two-week urgent referral pathway, as there will be a balance between how GPs use these two approaches to cancer diagnosis.

Therefore a new data set, covering diagnostic imaging test activity across the NHS, is in development to meet the following needs: To provide national data on GPs’ direct access to tests, as well as tests requested via other referral sources. Benchmarking data will be fed back to GPs and, where appropriate, used to encourage increased use of tests, leading to earlier diagnosis and hence improved outcomes.

  • To provide more detailed national data than is currently available on test type (modality), body site of test and patient demographics
  • To enable analysis of turnaround times for tests
  • To enable better analysis of cancer pathways by linking Cancer Registry data to diagnostic imaging test data for cancer patients
  • To allow the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to calculate more accurate estimates of the distribution of individual radiation dose estimates from medical exposures
  • In the longer term, to replace the existing annual KH12 dataset

The data collection will consist of data that are readily available and extractable from Radiology Information Systems.

This will apply to all providers of the relevant NHS-funded diagnostic imaging and has recently received approval by the Information Standards Board that there is a requirement for these data.

It is anticipated that this data collection requirement will commence from 1st April 2012.