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GPs deserve better than this PCT lottery

GPs' care of the terminally ill is being hit by serious delays in communication from hospital doctors, a new study reveals.

Some GPs are being left waiting for more than a month for letters informing them that patients are to be transferred back into their care after entering the terminal phase of their disease.

Researchers found delays of up to 27 days between dictation and typing, and of up to eight days in signing, before letters even reached internal mail, couriers and surgery systems and then GPs' desks.

The study, a detailed analysis of the care of 30 ovarian cancer patients, also found GPs were not supplied with appropriate information while their patients were being treated in hospital.

Dr Helena Earl, study researcher and honorary consultant medical oncologist at Cambridge Gynaecological Oncol- ogy Group, said: 'The findings are concerning because the public assumes this information is available within 24 hours and feels let down if it's not.'

The study, published in the European Journal of Cancer Care, concluded there was 'clearly a need' for greater use of electronic records, telephone and fax.

Dr Murray Freeman, cancer lead at Birkenhead and Wallasey PCT, said: 'It's absolutely critical we have information in a timely fashion.'

He said in his area the use of 'serious diagnosis proformas' ­ faxed between primary and secondary care ­ had improved communication.

But it has emerged that a hospital trust is to launch an investigation into complaints about delays in letters between consultants and GPs.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust issued an apology to GPs after delays of almost a month in typing letters relating to cardiovascular disease.

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