Technology helps cancer patients to be seen sooner

Diagnosing cancer at an early stage saves lives and increases the chances of survival. With almost three million cancer referrals over the past year cancer referrals are now 10% higher than before the pandemic. This increase highlights the need for timely and proactive diagnosis, as early detection continues to be an important factor in improving patient care.

In order to meet this increased demand for cancer care, the NHS needs to adopt new systems and innovative ways to be as efficient as possible in delivering the best possible cancer care.

The Cancer Services team, alongside clinical, operational and administrative staff at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, have successfully developed a collection of digital tools aimed at managing timed cancer diagnostic pathways. This includes a digital cancer patient tracking list (PTL), communication management tools and operational dashboards to support the operational management of cancer pathways.

The cancer patient tracking list brings a range of patient information, previously held in separate hospital systems, into one secure place. This dramatically improves visibility and provides a ‘single source of truth’ about cancer patients that can be accessed by all clinical teams responsible for delivering care. It also provides near real-time information about pathway milestones, worklists to more easily manage patients, and clearly highlights opportunities to drive service improvements.

July 2023 saw the highest number of suspected cancer referrals and 62-day pathways being managed across the trust. Despite the increased demand, the tool is enabling significant performance improvements as the trust has been compliant with national reporting standards for the last six months, consistently reducing backlog and improving performance.

The tool have been critical in providing operational teams with the insights needed to manage the service against a backdrop of industrial action, staffing challenges and an increase in GP referrals of over 50%. It has contributed to a reduction in time spent waiting for a first appointment, with some specialities reducing their wait on average by up to four days (since January 2023). In addition, lengthy patient tracking meetings have been shortened by half, freeing up vital clinical and non-clinical time to contact patients, relay results and receive vital treatment they need sooner.

Jeffrey Ahmed, Consultant Gynaecologist Laparoscopic and Robotic Surgeon at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “Technological innovation has been critical for our team to see and treat cancer patients sooner as we tackle the backlog. We have already seen measurable positive impact that helped our team to maximise our resources for the benefit of patients”.