“There have been significant improvements in earlier diagnosis of cancer over recent years with Public Health England research, released just last month, showing that cancers are now being diagnosed earlier than ever. But where our patients with cancer live should not be a factor in their health outcomes.
“The variation in early diagnosis shown by this research today could be due to a number of reasons including population characteristics, the numbers of patients presenting with symptoms that could potentially be cancer, and local hospital administration systems – not simply GP referral – and these all need to be addressed.
“Cancer is relatively rare in general practice and GPs are already doing a good job of appropriately referring our patients that we suspect of having cancer with 75% of patients found to have cancer being referred after only one or two GP consultations. Giving family doctors right across the UK better access to diagnostic tools, such as MRI and CT scans and ultrasounds, would inevitably improve this even further, and this must be a priority.
“The recent publications of the government’s Cancer Taskforce report and the new NICE guidelines on suspected cancer give GPs a fantastic opportunity to both increase cancer survival further, and address variations in health outcomes. But implementing the recommendations in these reports must be accompanied with significant investment in general practice and at least 5000 more GPs by the end of this parliament.
“By investing in general practice – including access to diagnostics – now, we will be able to save both money and our patients’ misery in the future.”
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Notes to editor
The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.