GPs face scrutiny on cancer referrals
By Lilian Anekwe
GPs are to face close scrutiny of the time they take before deciding to refer patients with suspected cancer, under the Department of Health's new cancer strategy.
Part of the strategy, published last week, will be to establish a national audit of newly-diagnosed cancers in primary care, to understand the ‘nature and extent' of delays in cancer diagnoses.
The audit, undertaken by the RCGP and the National Patient Safety Agency, will examine the number of visits a patient with cancer symptoms made to their GP before being referred to hospital.
A member of the working group, who advised the Department of Health on how to improve early cancer detection, told Pulse anonymously that delayed diagnosis of cancer in primary care was regarded as a ‘sensitive issue' by cancer tsar Professor Mike Richards.
The source added that the department wanted to develop ‘some way of auditing how long patients wait before being referred', but stressed it would not become a ‘witch-hunt', nor be published as league tables.
Professor Mike Richards, who is also professor of palliative medicine and St. Thomas' hospital in London, told Pulse:
‘Our clear intention is that this should be a learning tool. We want GPs to scrutinise their own performance as a matter of good clinical governance.
‘By pooling data from GPs across the country we will be able to identify which types of patients – by age, symptoms at presentation, etc – are most likely to experience a delay within primary care.'