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Breast cancer now added to summary guide supporting the NHS 28-day cancer diagnosis standard

A new section on breast cancer has been added to GIRFT’s summary guidance supporting NHS clinicians to better meet the Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS) for cancer.

In 2023, Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) and NHS England’s Cancer Programme worked in partnership to produce concise guidance for Best practice timed diagnostic cancer pathways, outlining how cancer alliances and local organisations can implement NHSE’s best practice timed diagnostic pathways for cancer. The summary guidance includes advice for all stages of a cancer diagnosis, from early identification of patients to onward referral, as well as useful insights from the relevant GIRFT national clinical leads and links to best practice case studies.

The first iteration included colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and skin cancer. Guidance for breast cancer has now been added following the publication of NHSE Cancer Programme’s breast pathway.

The NHS Long Term Plan committed to providing a faster diagnosis for patients through the introduction of the Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS), to ensure more people are told they have cancer or that cancer is excluded within 28 days from referral.

Suspicion of breast cancer is the most common urgent referral type in England, with more than 487,000 suspected breast cancer referrals a year; around 17% of all urgent suspected cancer referrals in 2022/23.

Between April 2022 and March 2023, 87% of people received a communication of diagnosis of breast cancer or cancer ruled out within 28 days of referral. Breast performance is higher than general performance across specialties, but there is variation across cancer alliances, ranging from 77% to 95%.

Best practice timed diagnostic pathways for eight cancer specialties have now been shared by NHSE’s Cancer Programme, with more in development – these are breast, head and neck, gynaecology, colorectal, lung, prostate, skin and oesophago-gastric. The pathways aim to encourage consistent, system-wide approaches to managing diagnosis pathways, ​allowing clinicians to focus on the rapid investigation of the highest priority patients, while ensuring fast and effective rule out and management of those without cancer.

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