By SOPHIE BORLAND
Slashing scans: GPs are being ordered to refer patients to a hospital doctor, but experts warn late diagnosis mean it can be too late for cancer sufferers
Family doctors have been ordered to ration the number of patients they send for life-saving cancer scans to save money.
They are being told to slash the number they refer to hospital for tests including ultrasounds, MRIs and CT scans commonly used to spot tumours.
Order: Family doctors have been told to stop sending people for MRI scans to save money and instead send them to consultants to decide whether they need the tests and scans
Last night experts warned the cost-saving measures increased the risk of patients being diagnosed too late and dying unnecessarily.
Britain has one of the lowest cancer survival rates in Europe, and experts say late diagnosis is to blame.
The cuts are being brought in despite Government pledges to give GPs better access to cancer tests in the hope of saving 5,000 lives a year.
Out of my hands: A quarter of Primary Care Trusts are actively discouraging GPs from sending patients for cancer tests
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley promised to set aside £750million to help family doctors send patients directly for scans instead of having to refer them to a consultant to decide whether or not they should have a scan.
This process could add several weeks on to the diagnosis by the time patients have waited for an appointment and a slot for a scan.
But it has since emerged that a quarter of Primary Care Trusts are actively discouraging GPs from sending patients for these tests.
The figures were obtained through a freedom of information request by GP Newspaper. Of the 116 PCTs which responded, a quarter said they had policies to reduce ‘inappropriate’ referrals by GPs for scans.
And five – Bury, Salford, South West Essex, Southampton and Stockport – have banned family doctors from sending patients directly for scans, flying in the face of the Government’s pledge.