Posted on Friday 26 January 2018
Geraint Jones, Paula Allchorne, Daniel Murphy and Dr Luigi DrMichele from the rapid access diagnostic clinic
An innovative clinic has helped nearly 350 patients to get a faster diagnosis with cancer and other serious conditions since it opened a year ago.
The rapid access diagnostic clinic at Guy’s Hospital provides quick access to a range of tests for patients over the age of 40, whose symptoms are non-specific but concerning.
Since its launch in December 2016, the clinic has received more than 400 referrals from local GPs, with 31 resulting in a cancer diagnosis.
The team have also helped to diagnose around 300 patients with a wide range of other serious conditions including liver cirrhosis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, heart failure and emphysema.
The clinic, which is based on a scheme developed in Denmark, has been trialled across Lambeth and Southwark. Thanks to its success, in April it will expand to offer services to patients under the care of GPs in Greenwich, Lewisham, Bexley and Bromley.
Yvonne Allen, from Southwark, was one of the first patients to benefit from the clinic. She visited her GP in May 2017 after experiencing pain in her lower back and side. The 61-year-old had vague symptoms and painkillers were not helping so the doctor referred her to the rapid access diagnostic clinic.
Yvonne, who has been a foster carer for 17 years, says: “The clinic was fantastic and, over the next few weeks, I had a range of tests including an MRI scan, endoscopy and blood tests.
“The staff were very nice and even helped me conquer my fear of the MRI machine.”
Scans revealed that Yvonne had a lump in her lower intestine so she was referred to the gastrointestinal unit and was diagnosed with bowel cancer. She had an operation in July 2017 to remove the tumour and is continuing to take medication.
Yvonne says: “It wasn’t the outcome I expected but I’m glad it was discovered and treated so quickly.”
Geraint Jones, advanced nurse practitioner at Guy’s and St Thomas’, runs the clinic with Dr Luigi DeMichele, consultant in internal medicine, with support from project manager, Paula Allchorne, and administration lead, Daniel Murphy.
Geraint says: “This clinic makes things easier for GPs and quicker for patients. It is normally clear when a patient has certain symptoms where their GP should refer them to but things are not always that simple.
“This service avoids delays in diagnosing patients when their symptoms are less specific so that a treatment plan can be put in place for them.” Geraint continues: “We see patients within seven days of referral from the GP and the 45-minute consultation involves myself and Dr DeMichele. Together we are able to provide medical and nursing expertise.
“Many of the cancers discovered in the clinic have been diagnosed at an early stage which means patients have a greater chance of recovery. Once our investigations are complete we can refer the patient to the relevant specialist unit for treatment or reassure them that nothing serious is going on.”
A survey found that 91% of patients either agreed or strongly agreed that the new clinic had helped them. It also showed that 96% of patients referred to the clinic thought the assessment of their medical conditions were either good or very good.