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Tuesday, May 28, 2013, Issue 65

Better access for patients who need imaging

Radiographer looking at scan

Patients needing diagnostic imaging on the NHS should receive better, more efficient access after being referred by their GP, according to new guidance launched this week.

The new recommendations, published by the Society and College of Radiographers, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR), outlines improvements for patients by ensuring that timely and appropriate medical imaging services are provided to them and their referring doctors.

Boosting communication through the open sharing of images and reports across local and regional healthcare networks, as well as making previous imaging history reports available to all providers, is also recommended to ensure patients receive the fastest possible diagnosis.

Patients needing urgent scans on the NHS should be seen within a week of being referred by their GP and routine screenings should be carried out within two weeks of a GP referral. Patients in rural areas would also have improved access under the recommendations.

Improving care through dialogue

The guide – Quality Imaging Services for Primary Care: A Good Practice Guide – sets out what needs to change to make a ‘tremendous difference’ to the care of patients requiring an NHS scan and aims to reinforce the links between local NHS clinical imaging departments and the new Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

Underpinning the recommendations is the need to improve the clinical relationship and dialogue between primary care and radiology clinicians.

If used correctly, the guide should significantly improve patient care, increase efficiency and shorten waiting times, as well as cutting NHS costs.

Director of Professional Policy at the Society and College of Radiographers, Professor Audrey Paterson, commented: “This guide provides a real opportunity to embed best practice for GPs and their patients in clinical radiology departments across the country. Services may well find aspects of the guide challenging, but their well established principles of effective team working and skills mix will enable them to more than rise to them, developing strong and effective partnerships with GPs and the Clinical Commissioning Groups as they do so.”

Shared goals

RCGP Chair Dr Clare Gerada, said: “By working together and using this guidance, GPs, radiologists and radiographers can really make a difference to patients needing scans, be it urgent or routine. It will help Clinical Commissioning Groups to highlight where current services need to change and where they could become more localised.

“Making the process more straightforward, and ultimately quicker, will also lead to greater peace of mind for patients as it will take away a lot of the anxiety and uncertainty that waiting times can cause.”

RCR Vice-President Dr Pete Cavanagh added: “Diagnostic radiology is at the heart of most patient pathways and it is important that those commissioning and providing such services have a clear, shared understanding of what needs to be in place for patient safety and to ensure the effective use of healthcare resources. It is essential that such services are commissioned in a way that ensures that the patient and referring doctor have access not only to an image and a report but the medical expertise of a clinical radiologist, as well as other members of the radiology team.

“The shared goal of providing the highest quality, seamless care to patients is what has driven the work of the colleges and is why this guide is an important step in this aim.”

Quality Imaging Services for Primary Care: A Good Practice Guide can be found here.

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