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Urgent GP cancer referrals increase by 50%



There has been a 51% increase in the number of GP urgent referrals for suspected cancer cases in the last five years, a major audit of cancer outcomes has found.

The National Audit Office’s ‘Progress in improving cancer services and outcomes in England report’, released today, lists improvements ‘across a range of indicators’, including GP urgent referrals, five-year survival rates and a drop in overall mortality rates.

The report states: ‘Urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer increased by 51% between 2009-10 and 2013-14 from 0.90 million referrals a year to 1.36 million referrals a year.’

However, there are signs that other parts of the system are struggling to cope, as the report also shows the NHS hasn’t achieved targets to treat 85% of patients within 62 days of being urgently referred, for more than a year.

The report says: ‘Waiting time standard that 85% of patients should be treated within 62 days of being referred urgently by their GP has not been achieved since September to December 2013.’

It also cites cancer awareness campaigns as an area that has been successful by making patients aware of symptoms, saying: ‘Most cancer awareness campaigns have resulted in a statistically significant increase in awareness of cancer signs and symptoms, and almost half have resulted in a statistically significant increase in GP attendances to discuss potential symptoms.’

Pulse has previously reported how national campaigns have led GPs to be inundated, with recent worries about patients with heart burn, and the GPC has warned about added risks of over-investigating well patients.

This week NHS England announced it would be piloting a new scheme to allow patients to self-refer for a battery of diagnostic tests, without seeing a GP, if they suspected cancer.