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GP cancer referrals continue to rise as services become more strained, says report

The number of GP cancer referrals has risen by 50% in the last five years – while specialist services are under increased pressure to cope with the rising demand, a new report claims.

According to a report by Cancer Research UK, 900,000 patients in England were referred by their GP for suspected cancer in 2009-10, and over 1.4 million in 2013-14, representing a 50% increase in referrals.

There have also been significant increases both in the number of diagnostic tests being carried out and the number of patients receiving treatment for cancer following a referral from their GP.

However, the report also claims that specialist cancer services are under pressure to meet the rising demand of people getting the disease due to shrinking budgets and a lack of available resources.

The charity has called on the Government to step up its investment in cancer services, adding that the increased amount of GP referrals is ‘outstripping’ available resources.

The report states: ‘The Government should increase investment in cancer services, to ensure the NHS can meet rising demand and ensure our cancer outcomes become the best in the world.

‘Investment is particularly crucial in diagnostic services, where rising demand is starting to outstrip the resources available. Our findings suggest that the impact of the financial environment is considered more of an immediate challenge for cancer services than the impact of the reforms. There is widespread concern that capacity (in relation to both clinical space and workforce) is not keeping up with current demands, and that this would ultimately affect patients.’

Earlier in the year, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said GPs should be ‘named and shamed’ after missing cancer diagnoses.

>>>> Clinical Newswire

Readers' comments (14)

  • Do TWR clinics not get money per referral?

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  • I accept numeracy is not my strongest suit but if a number doubles, does this not represent a 100% increase, not a 50% increase?

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  • Vinci Ho

    Chinese saying ,' He/She is the righteous as well as the devil'.
    Agent Hunt is so 'righteous' to name and shame GPs(bear in mind , this figure is for a period way before he open his gob) but clearly this government does not want to invest for the consequences of the increased referrals!

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  • create awareness, allow any and everyone to suggest patient see gp for trivial or any symptoms, and not expect to see this. I don't know of any GP who would now dare to ignore any "guideline" regarding cancer referral, where in the past they may have waited and watched or done some investigations themselves, now its much easier and more definitive and medicolegally fantastic to just refer on the 2ww. cost to GP- nothing. Cost to NHS - growing beyond what they can provide. cost to hospital- far too expensive. I know - lets get nurse noctors to run the clinics (this is true) and just tick boxes. with a lack of consultant back up (this should have been referred earlier by your GP) on cancer diagnosis, who wants to take a risk. Subjectively, quite easy to fit a lot of symptoms into two week waits and avoid most 18 -30 week waits.

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  • The woods are full of bear s***,where will the poor dears do it now!!!!

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  • Sorry, this ain't my problem anymore.

    DoH took that responsibility away from GPs when they've decided to scrutinize our practice the point of defensive medicine being the norm. If DoH wants that, they'll also get Tsunami of patients primary care have traditionally managed going to secondary care.

    But that's for clever Mr Hunt to deal with, not the problem of individual glassroot GP.

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  • This is a good news story - previously incompetent ignorant GPs have listened to the wailing/advice about their poor cancer detection skills and improved their practice!

    TIC obviously

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  • Damned if we do damned if we dont.

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  • Public and our regulators now have zero tolerance for any delay in detection of any cancer. The hypothetico-deductive system of GP diagnosis no longer applies. This means the "soft" cases will be referred as well, e.g. abdominal bloating and nothing else to find whatsoever. The public gets what the public wants, and they, ultimately will pay the bill for this. Not our problem folks. Just cover your backs and be safe drs. GMC, NHSE, CQC etc etc are just waiting to get you otherwise.

    Nice being a GP these days... Not. I feel like a rabbit in the headlights.

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  • Peter Swinyard

    What would be interesting and does not seem to be mentioned in the article is the proportion of 2ww referrals which turned out to be cancer.
    Last figures I saw showed proportion static - so we are finding more cancers (contrary to the spin of the DoH as put out through the Daily Wail and the Torygraph).
    There is little apart from professional satisfaction in doing a proper work-up of a patient prior to referral these days as the media will just pillory us under the "I had to see my doctor 3 times before he referred me" headlines (always with a patient looking glum in the picture).

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