Introduction: The UK has a higher mortality for colon cancer than the European average. The UK Government introduced a 2-week referral target for patients with colorectal symptoms meeting certain criteria and 62-day target for the delivery of treatment from the date of referral for those patients diagnosed with cancer. Hospitals are expected to meet 100% and 95% of these targets, respectively; therefore, an efficient and effective patient pathway is required to deliver diagnosis and treatment within this period. It is suggested that 'straight-to-test' will help this process and we have examined our implementation of 'straight-to-colonoscopy' as a method of achieving this aim.
Patients and methods: We carried out a retrospective audit of 317 patients referred under the 2-week rule over a 1-year period between October 2004 and September 2005 and were eligible for 'straight-to-colonoscopy'. Demographic data, appropriateness of referral and colonoscopy findings were obtained. The cost effectiveness and impact on waiting period were also analysed.
Results: A total of 317 patients were seen within 2 weeks. Cancer was found in 23 patients and all were treated within 62 days. Forty-four patients were determined by the specialist to have been referred inappropriately because they did not meet NICE referral guidelines. No cancer was found in any of the inappropriate referrals. The use of straight-to-test colonoscopy lead to cost savings of £26,176 (£82.57/patient) in this group compared to standard practice. There was no increase in waiting times.
Conclusions: Straight-to-colonoscopy for urgent suspected cancer referrals is a safe, feasible and cost-effective method for delivery of the 62-day target and did not lead to increase in the endoscopy waiting list.