This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Celebrating GPs’ success in diagnosing cancer

Editor’s blog

GP bashing is one of the media’s favourite bloodsports, and there is no more enjoyable GP-bashing session than bashing GPs over cancer diagnosis rates.

jaimie kaffash 2 duo 3x2

jaimie kaffash 2 duo 3x2

Notable highlights include GPs sending patients away THREE times without a diagnosis, GPs ‘failing’ to send patients for cancer checks because they don’t want to scare them, or GPs being to blame for the high number of lung cancer deaths. (Click at your own peril).

Never one to miss out, the health secretary came up with his own hare-brained – and quietly dropped – idea for GPs to be ‘named and shamed’ after missing cancer diagnoses.

So colour me surprised when official figures released this week found that GPs are, in fact, successfully picking up early cancer, with fewer picked up through an emergency admission as a result.

Even more shocking was that this news failed to make it in to the wider national media.

Of course, in reality, neither of these happenings were a revelation. Studies continue to show that GPs are doing a good job picking up cancer early. And, actually, when patients are being diagnosed at the first time in A&E, it’s often because they hadn’t even seen their GP.

GPs manage this despite a lack of access to recommended diagnostic tools, increasing numbers of worried well flooding practices following media scare stories and the well-trodden lack of funding, recruitment crisis and unfunded work.

It might not make such a sexy headline for the wider press. But it is about time we celebrated GPs’ triumph in adversity.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse

Readers' comments (2)

  • Vinci Ho

    The hypocrisy lies where GPs pushed themselves to refer more suspect cancer diagnoses in line with the latest NICE guidance (lower positive predictive value , the translation into increase in cancer survival (reduced mortality) is limited by long referral to first treatment time in secondary care . Do not forget when more cases of ‘false positives’ are referred , this creates more ‘demands’ in imaging , endoscopies etc . Question is :how much has been sacrificed for those ‘true positive’ (false negative as well ) cases in terms of reaching first cancer treatment on time ?
    Hence, the so called ‘we cannot solve the crisis in NHS by pumping in more money’ narrative is a slippery slope fallacy . On one hand , the narrative is about improving efficiency and reducing waste but on the other , you open the door for more ‘liberal’ screening . Then , unless you really are to pump in more money and resources into the system ,of course , this is not sustainable.
    The truth is , the traditional role of GP as the gatekeeper is being eroded ,undermined and vilified under this ridiculous physiology of the government. Thanks to the academics and NICE.

    I see nothing to celebrate here because we are being used as the only means(like for many aspects in NHS) to ‘improve the outcomes’ (cancer survival in this case) by the government, since the overall resources are not increased proportionally . If the ‘desired’ outcomes could not be reached , we are always the only party to be blamed .

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Vinci is right. If we do more CTs, we will find more cancer. 2ww shovelled risk at GPs and drove a culture of litigation whilst the BMA just rolled over. If you don't fit the criteria you face a very long wait. Once diagnosed, you still face a long wait for treatment. In the meantime patients have stacked up in corridors and we've been through one of the worst winters on record. The NHS failed to see the wood for the trees.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say