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GPs in the UK Told to Take Pics of Suspicious Moles Before Referring

GPs in the UK Told to Take Pics of Suspicious Moles Before Referring

GPs have been told to take pictures of suspicious moles on their phones before referring patients to a skin-cancer specialist.

Under new plans, general practitioners working across four areas in North East England will have to take three photographs on their mobiles, which then get sent to a consultant for review.

The specialist may then offer the patient an urgent or routine appointment, or decide there is no cause for concern.

The new system comes after the clinical commissioning groups behind the project claimed they received around 150 urgent referrals every week, with most of the patients not having cancer.

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer due to it being the most likely to spread to other organs.

The most common sign of the disease is the appearance of a new mole or a change to an existing blemish, such as it growing, becoming irregular in shape or bleeding. 

In 2015, 15,906 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the UK, Cancer Research UK statistics show.

And in the US, around 96,480 new cases are expected to be diagnosed this year, according to the American Cancer Society.  

The new scheme is said to help specialists rank patients according to severity, with those more in need being given an appointment sooner. 

It should also stop patients from being seen unnecessarily. GPs can still request patients see a specialist even if a consultant has given them the 'all clear'. 

NHS North Durham CCG; NHS Durham Dales; NHS Easington and Sedgefield CCG; and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust are leading the project.

But the scheme is not without its critics.

One GP told Pulse: 'Our CCG has decided to further increase our workload with this additional step before an urgent skin cancer referral can be made.

'As well as adding to the workload of already overstretched GPs, I have concerns that it may potentially delay skin cancer diagnoses by making the referral process unnecessarily bureaucratic. 

'For instance, we have been told that if a photo is not uploaded within 24 hours of a referral having been made then it may well be rejected.'

However, Dr. George Rae - chief executive of Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC - supports the move, providing there are no technological glitches.

He believes the process will speed up patient diagnoses, with those most at need getting seen sooner. 

Although Dr. Rae admits mobile-phone images may not be clear enough to draw any accurate conclusions, the scheme requires doctors to take the photo alongside a dermatoscope.

This is a handheld instrument that magnifies an area by up to ten times. Doctors routinely use dermatoscopes to examine the skin closely.   

NHS South Tyneside CCG is also thought to be considering the scheme, according to Pulse.

However, it is thought to have concerns the scheme will lead to longer GP appointments. And no funding is in place to support this extra workload. 

This issue is said to have been raised with the Local Medical Committees. 

A spokesperson for the CCGs said: ’Digital technology is used increasingly across the NHS and evidence indicates it improves the patient experience. 

'This particular technology is already being used successfully in other trusts.

’We have training and other support in place to help with the initial implementation and will be monitoring the programme. 

'Our priority is to ensure patients receive the care they need in the most appropriate place and as soon as possible.'

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