Improved access to diagnostics will undoubtedly support GPs in their referral decisions says College Chair

Responding to the latest NHS England initiative to fast-track tests and checks for respiratory and heart conditions by allowing GP practices to directly order diagnostic checks, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Any initiative to accelerate the process by which patients can be diagnosed and begin to receive any necessary treatment should be seen as positive. For patients with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions this is particularly vital given the long-term, and sometimes life-threatening, nature of these illnesses.

“The RCGP has long been calling for better access to diagnostic tests and tools for GPs in the community as a means of ensuring that serious conditions are identified at the earliest possible stage. GPs are highly trained to refer appropriately for specialist care and will only do so if they think it is the best interests of their patients, but improved access to diagnostics will undoubtedly support them in this decision.

"For this initiative to be successful, it is vital that diagnostic capacity - both in terms of testing, and people to conduct and interpret tests - is sufficient, and that there is close coordination and clear communication between GP practices and secondary care teams.

“As we begin to think about how to ease pressures across the NHS over the coming winter months, we need to consider how to support general practice, which is working under intense workload and workforce pressures. GPs and our teams are already facing extraordinary pressures, delivering millions of appointments per month but with 900 fewer GPs compared to 2019, and this will only be exacerbated over the winter."

Further information

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Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.