Report into GP cancer diagnoses
Friday, November 25, 2011
A third of patients who have symptoms of cancer visit their GP
twice or more before being referred to a specialist, according to a
The audit also found that only 57% of patients saw a specialist
within two weeks despite their doctor suspecting they might have
cancer. A Government pledge says patients have the right to be seen
within this timeframe if their doctor suspects they have the
Overall, 46% of patients saw their GP with symptoms once before
being referred to a specialist. But 20% had to go to their GP twice
before they were referred, 8% went three times, 3% went four times
and 4% went five or more times.
More than 20% of patients with cancers of the lung, ovary,
pancreas, lymphoma, myeloma and stomach had to go to their GP three
times or more with symptoms, according to the report by the Royal
College of GPs.
The report also found some delays in writing referral letters to
specialists. A delay was defined as the time between when a patient
first told their GP of a possible sign or symptom of cancer and
when the referral letter was sent by the doctor.
Some 57% of letters were sent within 14 days, 11% were sent
within 15 to 31 days and 7.4% were sent within 32 to 62 days. Some
6.3% of letters were not sent for 63 to 182 days, while 3% were
sent after 183 days.
Overall, 54% of patients with suspected cancer were referred to
a specialist through the NHS' two-week urgent referral pathway
while 15% were sent as a routine referral. Some 13% were referred
as an emergency. Some of these will have been patients who did not
visit their GP but went straight to hospital themselves.
The report involved data on almost 19,000 patients in England
collected from almost 1,200 GP practices between 2009 and 2010. It
is the largest and most comprehensive study of the GP practice
route to cancer diagnosis, covering one in seven practices in
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Despite recent
improvements in cancer care, cancer survival rates in England are
still lagging behind other countries. It is widely recognised that
late diagnosis of cancer is the key reason for this, which is why
the early diagnosis of cancer remains a key priority.
"Our Cancer Outcomes Strategy sets out the direction for
improved cancer care and aims to save an additional 5,000 lives a
year. As part of this we are committing over £450 million over the
next four years to increase early diagnosis."
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