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Two-week rule 'unfair to GPs'

Cancer specialists have attacked the Government's two-tier referral system for suspected breast cancer, branding it as 'fatally flawed' and 'unfair to GPs'.

Consultant breast surgeon Mr

Simon Cawthorn, of Frenchays Hospital in Bristol, where one of the Government's cancer services collaborative pilots is under way, said it was unfair to expect GPs to attempt to diagnose cancer and categorise referrals into urgent and non-urgent 'when on average they only see 1.24 cases of breast cancer a year'.

He added it was vital for hospital specialists to help educate GPs on how to make accurate referrals because 'they have the most difficult job'.

He said: ' The two-week wait is a fatally flawed system. Everyone should be seen within two weeks. If you have a fast-track you will necessarily have to have a slow-track.'

Mr Jonathon Roberts, consultant breast surgeon at another pilot site, King's College Hospital, argued in a letter to The Lancet last year: 'It is evident that the two-week wait is not ensuring that most patients with symptomatic cancer are seen within two weeks of referral.' He said: 'GPs need dependability. They want to know if the patient can be seen within two weeks. Guidelines do not really help them.'

GPs have warmly welcomed the collaborative pilots that enable all patients to be seen within a fortnight.

South London GP Dr Helen

Graham, who used to run a hospital breast screening clinic, said: 'It's a brilliant system and very efficient. It's very good that they can process

patients with all the tests in one visit.'

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