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Umesh Modi is a chartered accountant, and Pamini Jatheeskumar is a chartered certified accountant at Silver Levene...
  Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead...
Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead pharmacist, Health and Wellbeing Directorate, Public Health England
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ACEschemeOctober 28 2015

Cancer Research UK is promoting a scheme in which community pharmacists are able to refer patients with suspected lung cancer symptoms straight for tests.

The charity has featured the scheme in a blog article on its website, saying that the scheme started in September with Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group in South Yorkshire. Nine pharmacies with 30 specially-trained pharmacists are participating who are  “able to send patients with suspected lung cancer symptoms directly to hospital for tests, bypassing the need for a GP appointment.”

Under the heading ‘Jumping the queue: could pharmacists help spot cancer?’, the Cancer Research UK article suggests that, if the scheme is successful, community pharmacies could help speed up patient referrals with concerns about other possible cancer symptoms.

It also describes the Health Living Pharmacy scheme “where pharmacies can sign up to improve the way they run their public health and primary care-related services.” And it says another possibility for developing pharmacists’ involvement in cancer is “our own Talk Cancer training programme, which gives pharmacy staff the knowledge and confidence to talk about cancer with their customers.”

The Doncaster referral scheme, the ACE (Accelerate, Coordinate, Evaluate) Pharmacy pilot, has been developed with local GPs. It is looking at what impact giving pharmacists the ability to refer patients for chest X-rays will have, and also how many people it identifies who are less likely to seek help from their GP for a persistent cough or other symptom of the disease.

Doncaster CCG says the year-long pilot will cover a population of 70,000 people “and pick out those seeking help for recurrent illnesses such as chest pains, persistent coughs and weight loss that might be symptomatic of the early stages of the disease.

“Nationally, lung cancer is the second most common cancer in men and women after prostate and breast cancer with 241 cases of the disease in the town in 2014-15. Doncaster has over 15,000 more smokers than in similar sized areas, with incidents of lung cancer in women being 68% higher than the national average.”

Pharmacists will be particularly on the lookout if customers:

  • regularly or repeatedly buy cough medicines, smoking cessation products or e-cigarettes
  • ask for advice about a cough, pain killers or nutritional supplements, or about giving up smoking
  • collect prescriptions for inhalers.

Counter staff are also involved, offering patients an opportunity for a consultation with the pharmacist.

Dr Nick Tupper, Doncaster CCG chair, said: “The ACE Pharmacy pilot is another example of the innovative and wider work we do in Doncaster to make sure we catch the symptoms and signs of cancers as soon as possible.

“By training some of our pharmacists how to spot the disease, we hope that we can pick up those people who wouldn’t ordinarily see their GP before their cancer is more advanced and less treatable.”

Dr Moe Kyi, Lung Cancer Lead at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals, has been involved in the pharmacists’ training. She commented: “By the time a patient suspected of lung cancer is admitted to hospital and a diagnosis is made, the disease can be very advanced and therefore less treatable.

“Community pharmacists are friendly, easily accessible and have wealth of knowledge. Having the right training and the ability to refer for a chest x-ray means our pharmacists may be able to identify patients who would be more likely to present late to us at the hospital.”

Links:

Cancer Research UK blog

Cancer Research UK ACE Programme

Doncaster CCG announcement

Practice News

July 31 2018 General practices employing pharmacists are citing improved capacity to see patients and workload changes as the main benefits of the scheme.
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