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The great escape

The vast resources ploughed

into two-week clinics for colorectal cancer are only benefiting a minority of patients, a new study reveals.

The audit of 151 colorectal cancer patients, the first to evaluate the two-week rule using primary care data, found only 28 per cent had been referred to a two-week clinic.

'Our study shows a minority of patients are travelling along the route that has been given most resources,' said Jacque-line Barrett, researcher at Barnfield Hill Research Practice in Exeter.

The study, published online in Family Practice, concluded that increased testing in primary care could improve the situation. Of 147 patients with primary care consultations, 89 had no investigations done.

The researchers also called for refinement of referral guidelines, warning that patients whose risk was too low to justify referral under the two-week rule were losing out.

Ms Barrett added: 'One concern is that increasing resources to the two-week clinic has led to decreased resources to the other routes.'

The researchers audited patients from Exeter, Oxford and Sheffield and said the findings were likely to be generalisable to the whole of the UK.

A recent review of the two-week wait rule (see Pulse, 5 November) found no evidence that the initiative had improved survival, leading one cancer expert to call for it to be scrapped.

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