Bupa has launched a service that allows people experiencing cancer symptoms to see a specialist consultant without being referred by a GP.
The healthcare provider’s Cancer Direct Access service enables customers who may have symptoms of the condition to call a team of specialist advisers, who use the latest guidelines from National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to establish whether they need to be referred to a specialist.
Customers who are diagnosed with cancer can access breakthrough drugs, advanced treatments and Bupa’s network of cancer specialist centres and hospitals.
They also have the option of chemotherapy treatment provided by a specialist nurse in their own home, if it is deemed clinically appropriate.
Cancer Direct Access aims to provide fast diagnosis for a wide range of cancers including stomach, lung, testicular and bladder cancer.
Bupa hopes the service will improve the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer, which can significantly boost survival rates.
According to Cancer Research, early (stage one) diagnosis means more than 80 per cent of people with stomach cancer will survive for five years or more after they're diagnosed - but this drops to less than 5 per cent for later (stage four) diagnoses.
If a customer calls with symptoms that are not covered by Cancer Direct Access Service, they will be advised to see their GP and can receive on-the-spot clinical advice from a Bupa nurse.
The nurse can also provide them with guidance about what they should ask their GP and information about the additional support that Bupa is able to offer.
Dr Steve Iley, medical director at Bupa UK, said: "One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, but the good news is that survival rates continue to improve.
"Early cancer detection can have a significant impact on an individual's chance of survival, and reduces their need for complex and invasive treatment.
"However, we know that diagnosis and treatment are often delayed as people can't find the time to book a GP appointment or worry about wasting the doctor’s time.
"Cancer Direct Access removes the need for a GP referral and allows customers to access specialist diagnosis services in a way that is easy and convenient for them."
Stuart Scullion, chairman of the Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries, said: "Bupa is well-known for the high-quality treatment and support it provides customers diagnosed with cancer.
"Cancer Direct Access is an industry first, enabling people to seek medical advice and reassurance in a convenient way, and demonstrates Bupa’s commitment to delivering a first-class cancer service."