James Paget University Hospital sets up ‘Colorectal Straight To Test’ service

A new service has been launched at James Paget University Hospital that aims to see those with Bowel Cancer symptoms quicker – and it has already halved the time for some patients to be diagnosed.

The trust said: “Previously if a patient saw their GP with symptoms suspicious of bowel cancer and their doctor wanted to refer them for further investigation, they would have been seen at our hospital clinic within about two weeks and would then be called in for tests such as a colonoscopy or CT scan before being reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team. This process might take several weeks from referral to diagnosis.”

The new ‘Colorectal Straight To Test’ service aims to reduce the number of days from referral to diagnosis by booking patients in quicker to test. Patients who visit their GPs with symptoms that need further investigation are electronically referred and then triaged by Clinical Nurse Specialists. Following the triage, patients are then contacted and booked immediately for a test if needed.

The introduction of the service was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it was officially launched on Monday 26 April 2021. In the first month of the service over 198 patients have been triaged, with 41 following the Straight To Test pathway.

In 97% of cases, patients were triaged on the same day as the referral – the others were all triaged within three days.

Consultant Colorectal Surgeon and Colorectal Cancer Lead Dr Kamal Aryal said the new service aimed to achieve a diagnosis and communication to patients within 28 days of referral.

Dr Aryal said: “We know that it can be a worrying time, not knowing how serious symptoms may be or what may lie ahead, so making a diagnosis quickly can help patients in a number of ways. The new pathway can reduce the need for multiple hospital visits and if we have to progress to surgery, it is at an earlier stage, which gives a better outcome for patients.

“There are a number of reasons patients may not be suitable for the pathway, including the nature of their symptoms, their age and if they have other health conditions but for those that are assessed as being able to go straight to test this offers a faster route to treatment.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in getting this new service up-and-running including our colorectal nursing team and colorectal surgeons, Cancer Transformation Project Manager Katrina Strak, my colleagues Dr Lal and Dr Badreldin, the outpatient booking team, our departmental managers and our Endoscopy team. Without their support we wouldn’t be able to do this. 

“We are aiming to transform existing pathways to improve services for patients and it is very fulfilling to be able to implement changes that make a difference. It is a continuing journey, as this is a new service, with many things to improve, but this is a great achievement for our patients and our hospital.”