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Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett

3 Aug 2023


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Direct Heart Checks by GPs: A New Healthcare Initiative in England

In England, GP practices are now able to order a variety of checks directly to help speed up the diagnosis of various heart and respiratory conditions. Traditionally, GPs would refer patients to specialists when conditions like heart failure and lung problems were suspected.

However, the ability to directly refer, which was rolled out for cancer last year, is now being extended.

This initiative, known as Direct Heart Checks by GPs, is welcomed by practitioners. But it also raises questions about the capacity of the healthcare system to handle these additional tests.

Concerns about Testing Capacity

While the Heart Checks by GPs initiative is seen as a positive step. There are concerns about whether there is sufficient testing capacity to cope.

Currently, a quarter of people are waiting longer than six weeks for a diagnostic test – before the pandemic, only 3-4% were.

 NHS England stated that the diagnostic testing capacity is increasing with the rollout of one-stop community testing centres to supplement tests available in hospitals.

However, the effectiveness of Direct Heart Checks by GPs will depend on whether these new testing centres can meet the increased demand.

Direct Heart Checks by GPs

The increased access to testing through Direct Heart Checks by GPs is aimed at speeding up diagnosis for conditions. Such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which causes breathing problems.

Dr Vin Diwakar, medical director for secondary care and transformation at NHS England. Emphasized the importance of early diagnosis so that patients can get the treatment they need to manage their condition well and prevent more serious conditions from developing. The Heart Checks by GPs initiative is a key part of this strategy.

Direct Heart Checks by GPs: The Start of a National Rollout

GPs in some areas can already order diagnostic tests for these conditions directly. But NHS England said this marked the start of the national rollout of Direct Heart Checks by GPs.

Royal College of GPs chair Prof Kamila Hawthorne said that GPs had “long been calling” for better access to diagnostic tests.

Direct Heart Checks by GPs

However, she added that for this initiative to be successful. It is vital that diagnostic capacity – both in terms of testing and people to conduct and interpret tests – is sufficient. The success of Heart Checks by GPs will depend on this capacity.

John Maingay, of the British Heart Foundation, also said access to testing was an issue along with waits when diagnosed. “Many people are facing extremely long waits for heart care in England,” he added.

The Direct Heart Checks by GPs initiative is a significant development in the UK’s approach to managing heart and respiratory conditions.

And its impact will be closely watched in the coming months. The hope is that Direct Heart Checks by GPs will help to reduce these long waits and improve patient care.

Direct Heart Checks by GPs: A New Healthcare Initiative in England