Hi-tech boost for skin cancer service

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A hi-tech gadget to speed up the diagnosis of cancerous skin conditions is set to be used across dozens of GP surgeries.

Staff at practices in Doncaster will use a special lens which clips onto a standard iPhone to take detailed close-up photographs of a mole or lesion, which are emailed to specialists at The Mole Clinic 200 miles away in London.

Experts study the image and give a diagnosis often on the same day and no more than two days later to assess if the mole is potentially cancerous - leading to an immediate referral to hospital - or if it poses no risk.

There has been a surge of potential skin cancer referrals to hospital in the town of nearly 40 per cent in the last two years, with about 1,000 people undergoing investigations.

The teledermatology service has already been trialled by 400 patients. About 75 per cent did not need hospital checks.

Patient Paul Hartshorne, 46, a full-time carer from Wheatley, praised the service he received at The Medical Centre in Frances Street in the town, and said: “The nurse took a photo of it using the iPhone and emailed it off.

“The practice then contacted me to say they had received the results and it was nothing to worry about, which was great news. I didn’t need a hospital appointment to get it checked out, it was all sorted at my local surgery.”

Nick Tupper, the chairman of NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group, which has funded the devices, added: “This service can quickly identify those conditions that are not dangerous, which means that patients can have their fears allayed much quicker, and the waiting times for those who really do need to see a skin specialist will reduce. New technology systems like this will grow in importance to help the NHS keep pace with the increasing demands placed on services.”