Camera technology in GP practices helping to save lives

Date published: 09 March 2023

More than 3,000 patients who were red flagged as suspected skin cancer patients were identified via the use of camera technology in GP practices between March and December last year.

The Dermatology Photo Triage referral pathway involves the use of a camera to take high quality pictures of a patient’s skin irregularity or mole at their initial appointment with the GP. These images are then sent electronically to a skin specialist at a hospital. It means a patient is able, through the use of technology, to obtain a rapid diagnosis and treatment plan from a consultant without having to attend a hospital.

From March to December 2022, a total of 3,314 referrals were made to Dermatology services in the five Health and Social Care Trusts via this pathway.

Of these, 3159 patients were red flagged, with the rest classified as urgent, routine or discharged with advice.

Permanent Secretary Peter May said: “These figures show how successful this pathway has been in identifying patients who have early symptoms of skin cancer. It has the additional benefit that patients can be seen at their GP without having to go to hospital.”

96% of GP practices in Northern Ireland have signed up to provide this service.

Dr Peter McHugh, from the GP West Belfast Federation commented: “My experience with the photo triage process has been really positive with responses to referrals within days. It is the most positive change to referral process that I have encountered.”

The Dermatology Photo Triage referral pathway started as a pilot in 2018 and has now been rolled out across GP practices in Northern Ireland.

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