GPs could be given the power to order extra scans for cancer patients as part of a plan to speed up early diagnosis of the disease, it has been revealed.
The health secretary, Andrew Lansley, is expected to make the announcement at a cancer conference on December 14 when he will outline the importance of catching cancer early.
Currently, GPs have access to tests such as chest X-rays in primary care, but other scans have to be ordered by a specialist in a hospital. Under the new proposals GPs would be able to order them straight away without the need for a referral.
These tests could include ultrasound scans for ovarian cancer, colonoscopies and MRI scans for brain tumours.
Doctors will still have the option to send patients through the rapid referral system to see a specialist within two weeks.
Some £25m has been earmarked from the NHS budget to support the move through 2011/12, which will fund up to 150,000 extra tests.
The amount of cash put forward will increase in subsequent years.
In January, the government will launch a public awareness campaign on the early signs of breast, lung and bowel cancer.
Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said: “Expanding their use to everyone is an encouraging step, but we need to make sure that the roll out of these tests is backed up with appropriate resources for these services and proper, careful planning so that all patients benefit.”
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