North London Partners in health and care

Teledermatology pilot helps detect rare skin cancer

Since the launch of the new NCL teledermatology service in January, there have been in excess of 130 referrals sent through to dermatologists at University College Hospital London (UCLH), Royal Free Hospital and The Whittington Hospital.

One of the referrals resulted in the diagnosis of a rare skin cancer, amelanotic malignant melanoma. This particular cancer can be hard to detect without a specialist review as it does not have melanin, the pigment that gives skins cells and moles their colour.

Prior to the launch of the teledermatology pilot, if the GP did not suspect a cancerous lesion the patient would potentially have been referred to a routine outpatient clinic, where waiting times are in the region of six weeks.

By using the Teledermatology service the patient’s images were triaged within three working days. The hospital then booked the patient into a two week-wait clinic enabling a much faster diagnosis and commencement of treatment.

The six month teledermatology pilot is led by Camden CCG and supported by North London Partners (NLP) and is running from January to June 2019. Its aim is to improve the patient experience by utilising smart technology to enable easier and quicker diagnosis of certain skin conditions. In many cases, referrals to hospital outpatient clinics can also be avoided. GPs use a specialised piece of equipment, called a dermatoscope, to take pictures of skin conditions. These are sent via a secure network to a dermatologist who advises the GP on a treatment plan or refers the patient for further investigation. The service is available to patients aged over 16 years.

The service is still in the proof of concept phase and NLP and CamdenCCG are working with stakeholders to resolve some issues have been identified.  Early indications from 

Whittington Hospital are that over 60% of referrals for rashes have resulted in a primary care management plan being returned to the GP, following dermatologist review of images.

Twenty-three GP practices in Barnet, Camden, Haringey and Islington joined the pilot in January and further practices now being recruited.

For more information contact Lisa Savage