ONE in 10 Limerick patients whose GPs suspect they have breast, prostate or lung cancer are now having referrals sent to the Mid-Western Regional Cancer Centre electronically.
A joint initiative of the HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme and the Irish College of General Practitioners, the aim is provide the same pathway, regardless of where people live, from the local GP into the rapid access cancer clinics in Dooradoyle and the other centres of excellence.
And it is hoped that having the system in place will avoid a repetition of the scandal at Tallaght Hospital in 2010, when it was revealed that 3500 GP cancer referral letters were left lying around the hospital unopened by specialist staff.
Under the new system, which is available to 2800 GPs across Ireland, a reply to the referral is sent within five days and an appointment set within two weeks. It sees a direct online link established between GP practices and the designated cancer centres.
“The swiftness of the process means the GP does not have any paperwork to complete, post or fax. The entire process is carried out online with the patient present. With an automated receipt facility, the GP knows for certain that the referral has been received and that their patient will be offered an appointment within the appropriate timeframe. It clearly reduces the risk of communication difficulties,” explained a HSE spokesperson.
Dr Susan O’Reilly, director of the National Cancer Control Programme, commented:
Rapid access clinics for prostate and lung cancers in Dooradoyle were opened over a year ago. And the symptomatic breast unit in Limerick has over 4,500 attendances a year, diagnosing about 200 new cases annually.