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​GPs need more support with rising cancer workload, warn experts

General practice will not be able to cope with the rising demand for cancer care unless the NHS makes radical improvements in areas such as diagnostics and training, a group of leading GPs and cancer experts has warned.

They argue that GPs need more support to take on a bigger role in cancer care, under Government plans to improve early cancer diagnosis and patients’ experience before and after treatment.

The doctors – who have produced a commission on cancer for the Lancet Oncology – said GPs’ cancer workload is predicted to double over the next 15 years as a result of the ageing population and improvements in cancer survival.

The team has outlined a range of measures that are needed to equip GPs with the information and skills to ‘fulfil their critical role in cancer care’, as well as improve integration between primary and secondary care.

These include better access to diagnostic tests underpinned by comprehensive guidelines, improved education and support, new models of shared care and greater communication between specialists and GPs.

Professor Greg Rubin, GP and primary care academic at the University of Durham, and the lead on the study, said: ‘With an ageing population and a rapidly increasing number of cancer survivors, the primary care cancer workload will increase substantially over the next ten years.

‘Our challenge is how to prepare primary care doctors as the cornerstone in prevention, early detection, survivorship and palliative care.’

Dr Richard Roope, clinical lead on cancer at the RCGP, said GP access to diagnostic tools such as CT and MRI scans in the UK is currently ‘one of the worst in Europe’ and called for ‘significant investment in general practice… as a matter of urgency’, so that GPs can ‘contribute to preventing cancers and where this is not possible, ensure patients receive the care they need at every stage of their condition’.

Lancet Oncology Commission 2015; available online 30 September

Readers' comments (4)

  • Vinci Ho

    I am sorry but I already know my mother is a woman!
    Please give the details of exactly how and where this 'support' will be coming. Can you guys gaurantee you can twist the arm( or better point the gun on the head) of this government and obtain the resources we will need, 'practical' resources not just some kind of calculators to estimate cancer risks since the threshold to refer will be lower and lower anyway.........thanks to the new NICE guidance.......

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  • Is this another "GPs are ideally placed"again. FFS what do they think is happening as a cancer specialist cant you see we are dying here.

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  • Nhsfatcat

    GP access to diagnostic tools such as CT and MRI scans in the UK is currently ‘one of the worst in Europe’ and called for ‘significant investment in general practice… as a matter of urgency’

    Errmm?!
    Fund me more and I still cannot influence how many scanners there are and run them 24/7/365. GP access to scans is not the rate limiting factor.

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  • "skilling up" is laudable but misses the point- rapid access to a sufficiently qualiied person with sufficient time to undertake the process is the "root cause" limitation in the current GP delivery.
    Either aim the future training program for the HCA to perform or massively increase GP numbers, we have exhausted all "working smarter not harder" options a decade ago and General practice is dying.
    The "specialist" role is abandoned with alacrity once voulme provision comes up, funny how "specialists" feel the work is "beyond GP's" at 6 cases per consultant per clinic but " suitable for GP's " once more than 20 cases per consultant per clinic as no current prospect of expanding consultant numbers as previlously!

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