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Skin cancer biopsies should move to primary care

7 August 2013

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GPs and effectively perform biopsies for melanoma without leading to poorer health outcomes, research has shown. 

Patients who have their initial diagnosis excision biopsy in primary care experience fewer hospital admissions and spend less time in hospital if admitted. 

Up to 20% of melanomas diagnosed in the UK are biopsied in primary care. Current UK guidelines state that any skin lesion that could potentially be a melanoma should be referred immediately to secondary care. 

However, the study, published in the British Journal of General Practice showed that there was no difference between receiving a diagnosis from primary care or secondary care. 

Dr Jonathan Botting, RCGP clinical champion for minor surgery said: “I support research that shows that GPs are as capable of undertaking minor surgical procedures as their hospital colleagues. 

“The most difficult part in the initial management of melanoma is not the surgery it is the diagnosis. Improved diagnostic accuracy comes with training and experience. With the incidence of melanoma doubling every 10 years the NHS needs to support suitably skilled GPs being involved in melanoma management as part of an extended, community based, cancer network.”