Developed, in partnership with local GPs, and funded by NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the ACE Pharmacy pilot aims to diagnose people with the cancer earlier, leading to quicker treatment and a better outcome. It is hoped that by giving pharmacists the ability to refer for chest x-rays it will also pick up local people who are less likely to seek help from their GP for a persistent cough or other symptoms of the disease.
In preparation for the 12-month trial, over 30 pharmacists have been trained to identify signs of the illness by Alan German, a local lung cancer survivor, Dr Moe Kyi, Lung Cancer Lead at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals, and Radiology Department staff at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.
The yearlong pilot will cover over 70,000 people in the borough and pick out those seeking help for recurrent illnesses such as chest pains, persistent coughs and weightloss 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.
Although more difficult to treat than other forms of the disease, early diagnosis of lung cancer can increase chances of survival, and getting the most effective and appropriate treatment is key for the best possible outcome.
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 said: “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.”
If you have had a cough for more than three weeks, persistent breathlessness, unexplained tiredness and weight loss, or an ache or pain when breathing or coughing, go and see you GP.