United Kingdom health watchdog, NICE has suggested all General Practitioners (GPs) order certain tests directly, side-stepping referrals to specialists first, to speed up access to treatment.

According to the group, thousands of lives are lost each year because tumours are being diagnosed too late and this new strategy could save at least 5,000 lives in England each year.

The new guidelines make wide-ranging changes to previous recommendations, which encourages focus on key symptoms, rather than encouraging GPs to consider first which cancer a patient may have and then to cross check it with the symptoms.

Furthermore, the recommendations also say all GPs across England should be able to order some cancer tests directly, without waiting for an appointment with a specialist.

With this method, GPs will now be able to access CT scans and internal examinations such as endoscopies, without a specialist referral, for instance.

The group hopes this will allow patients to get investigations more quickly and take the pressure off specialists' time.

To this end, the committee has produced information to help patients spot the most common signs of cancer so they can seek medical advice quickly, and the guidance encourages doctors to put "safety nets" in place to ensure difficult cases are not missed.

The Royal College of GPs welcomed the guidance but warned that there might not be enough capacity to do the extra scans and checks, which could cause a backlog and longer wait times for patients.