A new pop-up community imaging service is helping to speed up the process for checking for skin cancer, offering tests closer to people’s homes across the county to reduce waiting times. 

The Dermatology Service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) have partnered with Isla Health, a digital health technology platform to provide the service across community hospitals in Cornwall including Penzance, Newquay, Camborne, St Austell and Bodmin. 

Using innovative digital technology to provide expert skincare remotely, or tele-dermatology as it is commonly known, is particularly convenient for people living in rural areas or those who cannot get to a doctor easily.  

Patients are referred by their GP to one of the imaging clinics where a medical photographer can check and photograph them, the photos are then reviewed by the consultant via the Isla platform the next day. 

Dr Sandy Anderson, associate specialist at RCHT, said: “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 inevitable. 

“We can get 150-200 referrals a week, but we know that 50 per cent 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.” 

The team are also researching AI as a possible tool to help diagnosis skin cancers.

Isla Health co-founders Peter Hansell, CEO, and James Jurkiewicz, CTO, added: “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 Tele-dermatology service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust 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.” 

Robin Jones, RCHT chief operating officer, added: “I’m delighted to see this tele-dermatology initiative out in the community. It’s a privilege to work with such a forward thinking and creative team who are continually adapting the way they work to apply innovative healthcare solutions for the benefit of our patients. Huge thanks to all involved.”