Head and neck cancer patients to get faster diagnosis

A surgeon-led clinic for people with a neck lump and immediate access to CT scans are amongst the new developments at Teesside’s biggest hospital, which could help speed up the diagnosis of head and neck cancer.

A wide variety of specialists including radiologists, pathologists, ear nose and throat specialists and the Oral MaxilloFacial specialists worked together on the potential solutions to provide access to quicker diagnosis and treatment during an innovative workshop at South Tees Institute of Learning, Research and Innovation (LRI), on The James Cook University Hospital site.

The workshop saw specialists come together to examine every step between a patient’s first hospital appointment with suspected head and neck cancer to their eventual diagnosis, in a bid to reduce the time it takes to diagnose cancers.

Crucially, this will enable treatment to begin sooner and therefore potentially increase treatment options available to patients with cancer and improve care.

Gill Husband, the Trust’s Lead for Service Improvement and Innovation was praised by ENT consultant Shane Lester as the “driving force” behind the workshop, or ‘workstream improvement process,’ which was based on the ‘Kaizen’ approach used in Japanese industry.

This approach in industry is aimed at continuous improvement with the involvement of all employees, from the top level to the assembly line.

Shane said: “Gill was the real driver behind this excellent day and should be commended for the magnificent effort she has put into this.

“She managed to condense into one day what many service improvement specialists in Japanese Industry complete over five days. It’s very difficult to get such a wide range of specialists together at the same time so we tried to make the most of it!”

Amongst the many improvements to come out of the workshop, patients with suspected head and neck cancer will soon be able to walk straight to radiology for a scan appointment immediately after their first clinic appointment.

Shane added: “A surgeon-led clinic for people with a neck lump, in which a sample can be taken on the same day and a result given within five days, also has the potential to speed up the patient pathway by two to three weeks.”

Gill said: “It is very rare to get the opportunity to get a group like this together so every minute of the Kaizen day was utilised and the commitment to improving patient care was paramount.

“We now need to implement the agreed changes and make sure they are sustained.”

Click here to learn more about Innovation at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.