Early Awareness and Diagnosis

Pathology Project

Pathology is the study of disease using science and medicine. Pathologists support healthcare in areas such as diagnostic testing, treatment advice and helping to devise new treatments to fight diseases like cancer.  The current pathology system, used since the early 1900s, relies on fragile glass slides which often have to be physically transported or posted between hospitals and pathology labs for additional testing and diagnostic interpretation.  NCA has been leading an innovative piece of work to introduce digital imaging across the North East and North Cumbria. This will reduce the transportation of slides, offering quicker, real-time sharing across IT networks and make it much easier for pathologists to access sample images, wherever they are based. It will also enable pathologists to share complex images for second opinions. Digitisation will allow staff to work more flexibly and respond to the increasing demands on cancer diagnostic staff, and assist in training. The system will support earlier diagnosis of cancers by using computer-aided algorithms that can highlight areas of images where cells are dividing rapidly and guide the clinicians to those areas for examination.

Pathology Clinical Lead – Dave Bottoms


Endoscopy Project

The objective of this project is to understand the current state of endoscopic diagnostic capacity across the Northern Cancer Alliance and examine options where quality improvements can be made within the cancer pathway.  Within the analysis there are many facets to understand, some of which are patient flow, equipment, staff availability, geographical location as well as the demand on services including confirming or excluding diagnosis, screening programmes, ongoing surveillance and therapy for malignant and non-malignant disease groups.  A baseline of current services will be completed, data will be analysed to model future referral and examination patterns.  This information will provide Clinical Leads in Upper and Lower GI evidence to predict future demand to deliver a sustainable endoscopic service for our growing population within the region

Upper GI Lead – Dr John Painter
Lower GI Lead – Mr Peter Coyne
Clinical Lead – Dr Chris Tasker
Delivery Manager – Kath Jones
Useful documents:

NICE Guidance NG12 – Suspected cancer: recognition and referral 

Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015-2020

GP Direct Access to Diagnostic Investigations


This is a collaborative piece of work between Cancer Research UK [CRUK], Northern Cancer Alliance, University of Cumbria and Northumbria University.  The project aims to assess how effectively GP’s use direct referrals to radiology tests for investigation of suspected cancers in North Cumbria and the North East and to understand the factors that influence GPs when making referrals. Local referral data held in hospital radiology departments will be examined to assess the extent to which GPs are using direct access to radiology tests, and to explore local contexts and the influences of these on the referral decisions of GPs.  The study will provide a comprehensive picture of GP access and use of direct referral options and will give recommendations for potential reductions in the time to cancer diagnosis which will inform the planning of future services.

The study objectives are twofold:

Quantitative – to establish the clinical and cost effectiveness of direct GP access versus the urgent 2 week-wait referral pathway to radiology by GP’s for patients in whom cancer is suspected. Clinical process outcomes and costs will be compared along the two pathways.

Qualitative – to undertake discussions with Cancer GP Leads, generalist GP’s, Consultant Radiologists and Radiology Service Managers to explore views of enabling factors and barriers to this diagnostic pathway.

Useful Documents

Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015-2020


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