Wide variations in number of cancer referrals from GPs
The National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) has revealed that there are wide variations in the numbers of patients being referred to hospital with possible cancer by GPs across England. Cancer Research UK has called the variation “very worrying”.The data, which has been published by NCIN today, is acknowledged to be fairly crude at this stage and does not allow for differing types of patients, but even so, results from looking at more than a million patients showed a three fold variation ranging from a referral rate of 830 patients per 100,000 patients to 2,550 patients per 100,000. Although the type of patient and the geographical area and environmental context may be responsible for some variation, Dr Mick Peake from NCIN commented that the range of variation was so great that “it probably reflects differing standards of care”.Cancer Research UK’s Executive Director commented that it was already known that some patients visit their GP several times with symptoms of cancer before they get referred on for further investigation and that this resulted in late diagnosis, which could prove critical for a patients’ chances of survival.Trefine Maynard, a clinical negligence solicitor at Ashtons Legal, said: “We are instructed by many clients who have had a significant delay in recognition and referral of their early cancer symptoms. Any delay is potentially significant in effecting both the nature of subsequent treatment and the chances of successfully treating the underlying cancer. It is devastating for anyone to be given a cancer diagnosis, but for an individual and their family to believe that earlier opportunities to treat the cancer have been missed, only adds to their distress.If every step is taken to investigate and treat cancer at the earliest opportunity, patients and their families find it easier to accept that all available steps have been taken to achieve the best possible outcome.”
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