The Department of Health has revealed it will be expanding its ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ publicity campaign early next year, in a move GPs have warned will pile pressure on practices.
In the New Year, the DH said it would be starting pilots of TV, radio, and poster campaigns in northern England and the Midlands urging patients to see their GP if they spot blood in their urine and promote bloating ‘for three weeks or more’ as a sign of ovarian cancer in women aged over 50 years.
Another pilot campaign in northern England, London and the south-east will promote the four main signs for a variety of cancers – unexplained bleeding, weight loss, pain, and a lump.
Campaigns for bowel, lung and breast cancer ran this year encouraging patients to visit practices if they spotted symptoms, even though pilots of the schemes showed no significant impact on cancer referrals or diagnoses.
In a letter addressed to PCT chief executives, the DH cancer tsar Professor Mike Richards said: ‘The rationale behind this approach is that we cannot run symptom campaigns for all different cancer types and so, having run campaigns for a range of the most common cancers, we want to see what scope there is to run campaigns for a broad range of cancers.’
Dr Peter Swinyard, Chairman of the Family Doctors Association and a GP in Swindon, said the campaign was well intentioned but would prove to be an ‘absolute disaster’ for already busy practices.
He said: “Please stop doing campaigns during January, February, and March. They are our three busiest months of the year both clinically and administratively. It’s absolute disaster to have campaigns then.
It’s all very valuable in its own way, but it doesn’t have to be done in those months. I wish [Professor Richards] could sort out his budget and do at another time in the year