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Urgent GP cancer referrals increase by 50%

There has been a 51% increase in the number of GP urgent referrals for suspected cancer cases in the last five years, a major audit of cancer outcomes has found.

The National Audit Office’s ‘Progress in improving cancer services and outcomes in England report’, released today, lists improvements ‘across a range of indicators’, including GP urgent referrals, five-year survival rates and a drop in overall mortality rates.

The report states: ‘Urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer increased by 51% between 2009-10 and 2013-14 from 0.90 million referrals a year to 1.36 million referrals a year.’

However, there are signs that other parts of the system are struggling to cope, as the report also shows the NHS hasn’t achieved targets to treat 85% of patients within 62 days of being urgently referred, for more than a year.

The report says: ‘Waiting time standard that 85% of patients should be treated within 62 days of being referred urgently by their GP has not been achieved since September to December 2013.’

It also cites cancer awareness campaigns as an area that has been successful by making patients aware of symptoms, saying: ‘Most cancer awareness campaigns have resulted in a statistically significant increase in awareness of cancer signs and symptoms, and almost half have resulted in a statistically significant increase in GP attendances to discuss potential symptoms.’

Pulse has previously reported how national campaigns have led GPs to be inundated, with recent worries about patients with heart burn, and the GPC has warned about added risks of over-investigating well patients.

This week NHS England announced it would be piloting a new scheme to allow patients to self-refer for a battery of diagnostic tests, without seeing a GP, if they suspected cancer.

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Daily Mail CQC NHSE DoH slagged off incompetent useless GPs a year ago for missing cancer so now referrals go through the roof,no shit Sherlock
    Our local consultants whinge we don't follow their guidelines who cares refer everyone on 2ww

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  • Vinci Ho

    I would have more belief on NAO's figures.
    Isn't this another slap on the face of those(including Agent Hunt)saying GPs have not done enough to improve survival of cancers. Clearly, the ball has fallen onto the courtyard of secondary care with big question mark of how it can cope with so many more referrals . And yet NICE and NHSE want even more!!

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  • And the obvious solution to those lazy, overpaid GPs not referring enough suspected cancer cases is to lower the NICE threshold for referral and to allow patients to attend secondary care on a whim to check they haven't got cancer. Brilliant. You couldn't make it up.

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  • Russell Thorpe

    I think this is a good news story well done everybody!

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  • We do not want to be 'named and shamed' for missing cancer.
    Congratulations Mr Hunt.

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