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Independents' Day

GP cancer referral support tool to be rolled out nationwide next year

New software to help GPs decide which patients to send for tests for suspected cancer will be rolled out across the country next year.

The electronic Cancer Decision Support tool is designed to run in the background of GP practice software and works out the risk that a patient could have one of five different types of cancer, based on information logged by GPs during a patient consultation.

A pilot scheme involving 540 practices was led by Macmillan Cancer Support with part-funding from the Department of Health and is due to end at the end of November.

Macmillan Cancer Support is now in discussion with a number of GP software companies to develop versions of the tool to be made available to all GPs from next year.

The program can estimate cancer risk for oesophago-gastric, lung, colorectal, pancreatic and ovarian cancers.

Dr Rosie Loftus, lead GP adviser at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘Macmillan hopes that this tool will support GPs to identify the symptoms of cancer and help to improve cancer survival rates.’

Professor Willie Hamilton, a GP researcher based at the University of Exeter said the tool is not designed to replace GP’s knowledge or training, but is designed to give ‘extra information’.

He said: ‘What’s really useful is if, for example, a patient comes to see me with one symptom such as nausea or sickness. Then three weeks later they come back and say they’ve had trouble swallowing, the computer will automatically ping up with an alert to say their risk of oesophageal cancer is over 7% which will alert me to refer the patient for tests.’

Readers' comments (2)

  • and if the tool gets it wrong.......

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  • anonymous 4:09

    then government and public will say its gp's fault as they are clinician
    and if you refer ones which are not indicated by the tool but you suspect cancer and they dont have cancer then beureacrats and hospital colleagues will blame gp's for increased referrals
    and if the ones not indicated by tool and u suspect cancer and send them and they turn out to have cancer then no one will praise gp for thinking outside the tool as gp is supposed to be a Dr and should be able to think outside the protocall as they are Drs

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