Bettina Fitt, General Manager of GE Healthcare in the UK
Early diagnosis means therapies and interventions have a better chance of success, can cost the NHS less in the long-term and improve patient outcomes. An e-petition has been launched in the UK, which aims to galvanise the considerable support out there for more focus and emphasis on the value of early diagnosis. The petition came about through discussion between GE Healthcare, Endometriosis UK and a number of other disease campaigning groups about how to drive the importance of effective implementation of an early diagnosis approach up the Department of Health and National Health Service (NHS) agenda.
Reviews underpinned by a strong body of clinical research over the past 10 years by organisations including the National Audit Office and the Kings Fund have shown that for far too many people, diagnosis is slow, often leading to higher financial and non-financial costs to patients, their families, the NHS and the taxpayer.
Bettina Fitt, General Manager of GE Healthcare in the UK, explains; “Although evidence shows that early diagnosis of disease is more cost effective, better for patients and the finances of a health system, the uptake of improved clinical pathways that begin with early diagnosis is slow and inconsistent here in the UK. The sustained financial pressure on the NHS, combined with the implementation of reforms driven by the Health and Social Care Bill, could exacerbate short-term cuts to diagnostic services and further delay capital expenditure on diagnostic technologies."
Making up to £20bn of savings by 2014-15 is a monumental challenge for the NHS. The quality, innovation, productivity and prevention (QIPP) agenda will push developments in the right areas, but all too often the need for immediate financial savings leads to the final ‘P’ – prevention – and even a third ‘P’, the patient, being sacrificed.
Earlier diagnosis can lead to conditions being prevented in their entirety. Where prevention is not possible, in cases like rheumatoid arthritis for example, early diagnosis can still increase the likelihood of remission and lead to a far improved outlook for patients rather than allowing them to develop a debilitating long-term chronic condition. Even with cancer, which is a disease that has attained a lot of infrastructure and funding from the NHS, our survival rates still lag behind our European counterparts because of the need for more investment in early diagnosis.
Bettina says: “By better patient outcomes, we’re talking about the time between first presentation and first accurate diagnosis. Saving money today by cutting spend on the best diagnostic technology could lead to increased spending for the NHS tomorrow. What we are calling for is a system-wide, disease agnostic approach to early diagnosis that puts the patient first and measures short-term financial savings against a long-term perspective. This will benefit the NHS financially in the long-run and improve the quality of lives of those sufferers who as the result of earlier diagnosis have been prescribed more effective, tailored and personalised therapy.”
The e-petition aims to ensure that Parliament debates early diagnosis and that healthcare professionals are supported in being able to give the best possible treatment to patients. 100,000 signatures are needed on the petition; if you would like to add your support visit the petition website or the associated Facebook page.