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GPs ‘must improve lung cancer diagnosis’

GPs are not ‘up to speed’ at spotting symptoms of lung cancer and need to be better linked to multidisciplinary teams, a report has claimed.

The report published by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition says that people’s lives could be threatened through a lack of knowledge from members of primary care teams and patients themselves.

The report – The dream MDT for lung cancer – looks at how patients with lung cancer are cared for in the UK and issues a number of recommendations it believes can improve outcomes for those with the disease.

Among the proposals are that GPs should receive more timely information from hospitals regarding their patients and better access to risk assessment tools.

The report also calls for GPs to refer a patient to a lung cancer clinic within one week in cases where x-rays are normal but a suspicion of lung cancer remains.

The report says: ‘In the UK, each GP sees on average fewer than two patients with a new presentation of lung cancer each year.

‘They may confuse lung cancer symptoms with much more common conditions with a similar presentation such as COPD, persistent wheeze, or cough, or fail to connect less common symptoms (e.g. fatigue or weight loss) with the disease.

‘Action is still needed to improve patient and GP awareness and new risk assessment tools may help to trigger alerts and initiate earlier referral.’

Dr Mick Peake, NHS national clinical lead for lung cancer who heads up the UKLCC’s clinical advisory group, said the report was intended to stimulate discussion and set standards for lung cancer MDTs to benchmark against.

He said: ‘As many as a third of UK lung cancer patients still do not have their case discussed by an MDT made up of the full range of experts in some parts of the country.

‘And GPs are not always fully informed of patient treatment and progress. This simply isn’t good enough.’

The report was compiled from a consultation with people either working in the field of lung cancer, or those suffering the condition.

Dr Andrea Williams, a GP in Hereford and spokesperson for the UKLCC, said: ‘Closer working with local lung cancer MDTs, and better GP, nurse and patient education, will improve outcomes for lung cancer patients.’

Readers' comments (1)

  • The report also calls for GPs to refer a patient to a lung cancer clinic within one week in cases where x-rays are normal but a suspicion of lung cancer remains.

    That is really helpful advice. Prior to this artical I would normally wait several weeks and then post a hand written routine referral by second class post. Thank you ever so much for pointing out my error

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