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GPs face closer Ca referrals scrutiny

The Government expects PCTs to step up scrutiny of GP cancer referrals in a bid to push up standards.

The move follows an investigation from the Public Accounts Committee of MPs, which angered GPs after strongly criticising their diagnostic and referral skills.

In its response to a report from the committee, the Department of Health said: 'PCTs and cancer networks have a responsibility to monitor the treatment commissioned for their patients, including local GP referral patterns.

'As the commissioning role of PCTs is strengthened, the

effectiveness of local referral patterns will be subject to closer local scrutiny.'

Sir Nigel Crisp, the former NHS chief executive, had earlier told the committee that the number of cancer diagnoses missed by GPs was 'too high', and needed to be halved.

In a further sign of the

Government's determination

to put the spotlight on GPs' referral of suspected cancers, the Healthcare Commission this week said it would be among

its top priorities for the coming year.

But GP cancer leads doubted whether increased scrutiny would deliver improvements in diagnosis.

Dr Murray Freeman, a GP in Birkenhead and cancer lead for Wirral PCTs, said: 'We already audit all GP cancer referrals and I'm not sure if increased scrutiny will help GPs diagnose any better.

'It's a brave man who doesn't act on something when there's a two-week referral guideline sitting on his desk.'

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