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A faulty production line

GP referrals boost early cancer diagnosis

GP referrals have helped boost the number of people receiving an early diagnosis of cancer in Scotland by 6.5% over three years, figures show.

According to Information Services Division statistics, stage one diagnosis rates of breast, lung and colorectal cancers was up 6.5% when comparing the combined two-year period of 2013 and 2014 with the combined periods of 2010 and 2011.

Part of the improvement is because of the reduction in the proportion of cases for which stage is ‘not known’.

The Scottish Government says that the success is down to its Detect Cancer Early programme, launched in 2012.

A target of the programme was to ‘promote referral or investigation’ by GPs ‘at the earliest reasonable opportunity’. Another target was to ‘improve informed consent and participation in national cancer screening programmes’.

Health secretary Shona Robison said: ‘It’s very encouraging to see that an increasing proportion of cancer patients are getting the early diagnoses that we know are so crucial. I would continue to urge people to take every screening opportunity available, and to report any worrying symptoms to their GP as soon as they can.’

Readers' comments (3)

  • Look and you shall find. If patients walk in without socks we'll deplete terbenafine stocks too.

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  • Russell Thorpe

    To find a new cancer is hard to do. To diagnose it at a curable stage is outstanding. This is a good step in the right direction and it is not to our credit that sections of the medical profession have to be dragged kicking and screaming towards reduced morbidity and mortality for our patients.

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  • "@11.15 ...sections of the medical profession have to be dragged kicking and screaming towards reduced morbidity and mortality "

    In the words of the wonderful Ben Goldacre, "I think you'll find it's a little more complicated than that."

    Nobody is against "reduced morbidity and mortality", and at first glance this looks like a good thing.

    Bur there must be some caveats:

    1. The article itself says this is partly due to improved coding, and the degree to which the change is a purely paper improvement is "not known".

    2. To the extent that this paper improvement reflects a true improvement (currently unknown, see above), we do not know what resources have been used to achieve it, and therefore the opportunity cost of making it happen. Nor do we know what unwanted effects may have come with the change - what complications of testing may have arisen, for instance.

    3. Finally, we do not actually have data about morbidity and mortality.

    I'm not trying to be a overly negative - I actually think that this story is good news. I'm just pointing out that some of us "naysayers" may be sceptical because we want better quality data and a broad holistic view, rather than because we are not interested in improving morbidity and mortality.

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