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Quality double whammy

Furious GPC negotiators have defended GPs against 'insulting and unfair' allegations by MPs that they don't have the skills to detect cancer.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer report released last week claimed GPs had difficulty in identifying patients with cancer and urged PCTs to force them to undergo dedicated training on diagnosing the disease.

But GPC negotiators urged GPs to boycott any such move, saying diagnostic services were already overwhelmed with work and giving GPs extra training would be like 'teaching your grandmother to suck eggs'.

The MPs said PCTs should provide dedicated training for GPs, to 'enable them to keep clinical knowledge about cancer up to date and ensure

patients are referred appropriately'.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said: 'If I can't work out that I might be looking at a malignancy I shouldn't have been allowed to qualify in the first place. I'm not going to go through a training course.'

He also accused Health Secretary John Reid of giving patients the 'ridiculous' impression that he could guarantee 'everlasting life'.

RCGP chair-elect Dr Mayur Lakhani said: 'GPs don't have a problem referring patients for cancer screening ­ the issue is the availability of scans and tests.'

Dr Russell Thorpe, a GP in St Anne's, Lancashire, who gave oral evidence to the MPs' inquiry, said an audit of referrals in his area had not revealed any problems.

'We cannot be complacent and we should carry out audits of referrals but GPs have pretty good pick-up rates,' said Dr Thorpe, cancer lead for Flyde PCT.

The parliamentary report also called for more effective and user-friendly guidelines to help GPs identify which patients needed to be referred urgently under the two-week rule.

It said 50 per cent of GPs had not even read existing Government guidance.

Meanwhile NICE last week released the final draft of its referral guidelines for suspected cancers. The document runs to 800 pages.

How often a GP will

encounter different

types of cancer

Lung 1 new case every

6 months

Breast 12 months

Colorectal 18 months


prostate 2 years

Cervix 5 years

Leukaemia 5 years

Ovary 6 years

Brain 10 years

Lymphoma 15 years

By Emma Wilkinson

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