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Physician assistants 'can do majority of GPs' work'

'System delays' in primary care are contributing to delays of up to five months in the diagnosis of cancer, researchers suggest.

Their study, the largest and most comprehensive of its kind, found sharp variation in the length of delays with different types of cancer.

Breast cancer patients waited an average of 55 days for diagnosis from first presenting with symptoms while patients with colorectal or prostate cancers waited over four months (see box below left).

Patients who saw their GP prior to diagnosis had longer delays than those who did not, largely because their disease was at an earlier stage.

Study leader Dr Vicki Allgar,

senior research fellow at the centre for research in primary care, University of Leeds, said: 'It's difficult for GPs as they only see nine cancer patients a year. That's when referral guidance becomes really important.'

She said system delays added to the problem, such as GPs having to refer first for an X-ray and then to a specialist during lung cancer diagnosis.

The study, using National Survey of NHS Patients data, appeared online in British Journal of Cancer this week.

Delays vary by Ca type

Days

Breast 55.2

Lung 88.2

Ovarian 90.3

Non-Hodgkins

lymphoma 102.8

Colorectal 125.7

Prostate 148.5

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