Technology speeds up skin cancer care

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New technology to speed up the treatment of people with suspected skin cancer means patients will be diagnosed within 48 hours instead of the previous two-week waiting time.

A “teledermatology” system which enables GPs to send images of skin conditions directly to specialists has been installed in Leeds doctors’ surgeries.

It will provide faster reassurance for people with changes to their skin which turn out to be harmless. And patients with potentially-harmfully skin conditions will be seen in hospital more quickly.

The system has been launched to help tackle a skin cancer epidemic which is expected to see the number of hospital referrals in Leeds increase by 41 per cent by 2022.

The teledermatology project is part of the Leeds Cancer Programme, which involves Macmillan Cancer Support, Leeds Teaching Hospitals and NHS Leeds CCG.

Sarah Forbes, a Leeds GP and Associate Medical Director for the CCG, said: “This new service will make a huge difference to patients, providing a faster diagnosis in their community without having to go to hospital.

“The new technology which has been installed in every GP practice across Leeds will enable doctors to take a series of images and transfer them directly to a specialist at the hospital within a matter of minutes. It’s a great example of primary and secondary care working together to improve the patient experience.”

Debra Wood, 51, from Leeds, was diagnosed with skin cancer in August last year. She said: “I went to the GP with a mole that didn’t look quite right.

“Straight away I could tell from the look on his face that it was bad, so I thought it was probably skin cancer, but then had to wait two more weeks to go to the hospital and have it confirmed. The worst part is there’s no one to speak to between going to the GP and being referred and going to hospital.

“To be able to get that diagnosis sooner would make a massive difference, as it would put your mind at rest. It’s so important. You just want to know straight away.”

The system is part of work by health bosses to increase early diagnosis, raising awareness of symptoms and increase the uptake of cancer screening.

Helen Ryan, Leeds Macmillan Project Lead, said: “With the volume of skin cancer referrals increasing it’s more important than ever that we work together to improve services and deliver the best care for patients.

“The teledermatology service will completely transform the way we deal with suspected skin cancer in Leeds, creating a smoother, more effective process for both the patient and healthcare professionals.