Remarkable revolution of skin cancer diagnosis for rural communities in Cornwall through NHS partnership
Blog
April 5, 2024

Remarkable revolution of skin cancer diagnosis for rural communities in Cornwall through NHS partnership

Skin cancer diagnosis revolution

Innovative partnership with Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) speeding up skin cancer diagnosis for rural communities

We’re pleased to share an innovative initiative that’s transforming patient care across Cornwall. In collaboration with the excellent Dermatology Service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT), we’ve supported the launch of a series of pop-up community imaging clinics. 

These clinics are designed to fast-track the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer, bringing essential services closer to home and significantly reducing wait times for their patients. 

These Community Lesion Imaging Clinics (CLIC) have helped in preventing approximately 50% of in-person appointments, leading to a substantial reduction in waiting times.

The Isla platform has been key to this initiative, supporting teledermatology services that are not only convenient but also life-saving, especially for those in rural areas or those who find it challenging to visit a doctor in person. 

Many of the patients with possible skin cancer are elderly, frail, and geographically isolated, with a high proportion of manual and agricultural workers. Thanks to referrals from GPs, patients can visit the imaging clinics in Penzance, Newquay, Camborne, and Bodmin, where medical photographers capture and submit their images. These are then promptly reviewed by a consultant through the Isla platform, typically by the next day, enabling a faster skin cancer diagnosing. 

Impact

In the coming weeks, three additional community hubs are set to launch. Healthcare support workers on the Isles of Scilly are currently undergoing training, by the Dermatology department, to enhance services in hard-to-reach areas.

If the success continues at this rate, and the planned CLICs are rolled out across Cornwall, this could lead to more patients being saved from unnecessary hospital trips each year.

Innovation

The project also has an eye on the future, with the aim to build a database of de-identified tagged and coded dermoscopic images, which could be used to train and evaluate AI algorithms in future and potentially combine with similar outputs from other units to establish a national database, which would aid in the quicker identification of cancerous lesions.

Insights

Dr. Sandy Anderson, Associate Specialist at RCHT, sheds light on the urgency of this innovation:

“We can get 150-200 referrals a week, but we know that 50% of those can be sent back to their GP. These community-based clinics are virtually filtering for cancer, speeding up the process, reducing waiting lists and allowing patients to get a faster diagnosis without having to travel for a specialist appointment. We’ve received really positive feedback from patients so far and hope to expand the offering to further community hospitals in the county.”

“We’ve seen an epidemic of skin cancer in the last few years, the melanoma diagnosis rate in Cornwall is almost three quarters of the rate in Australia! We’re also seeing a shortage of dermatologists in the UK so innovating the way work is done is inevitable.”

“The feedback from patients has been overwhelmingly positive, reinforcing our commitment to expand these services to more community hospitals throughout Cornwall. This initiative is just the beginning, as we’re also exploring the potential of AI to further enhance skin cancer diagnosis.”

From the co-founders of Isla Health, Peter Hansell (CEO) and James Jurkiewicz (CTO):

“Isla exists to bring scalability to health services, and working with pioneering NHS Trusts implementing new ways of working is exactly how we achieve that. The Teledermatology service in Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) has delivered amazing impact for patients already, and we are super excited to extend our partnership, delivering novel remote services with RCHT and across the county, speeding up cancer diagnosis.”

At Isla Health, we’re more than just a technology platform; we’re partners in pioneering a future where healthcare is accessible, efficient, and tailored to meet the needs of every community. 

It is exciting to work with such proactive Trusts like Royal Cornwall, working to change the healthcare paradigm to meet the needs of their patient.

Additional reading: 

  • HTN write-up about this partnership
  • RCHT’s blog about the impact of the Isla platform across Cornwall
Innovative partnership with Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) speeding up skin cancer diagnosis for rural communities
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