Thousands of cancer sufferers not referred to specialists quickly enough by GPs

Data shows some patients are referred straight to A&E because their symptoms are so concerning

Thousands of people who are eventually diagnosed with cancer are not being referred to specialists quickly enough by their GPs, newly released data suggests.

According to figures from NHS England, while some GP practices show 100 per cent of patients with cancer are fast-tracked, in around 4,000 practices only a minority of patients are referred.

In some GP surgeries only around one in 10 patients who went on to be diagnosed with the disease saw a specialist within NHS England’s target of two weeks.

The findings suggest that many people are therefore diagnosed in another way.

Patients who do not consult their GP about their symptoms are sometimes diagnosed in A&E, while others have the cancer detected during routine tests.

The data shows some patients are referred straight to A&E because their symptoms are so concerning.

Stuart Barber, head of communications and campaigns at Beating Bowel Cancer, said: “It's intolerable that patients are having to wait”.

“GPs have the tools. There are clear symptoms, there is a clear screening programme and if a patient visits their doctor with what are symptoms of bowel cancer they should have the confidence they are going to be referred quickly.

”We know of cases where patients have gone multiple times backwards and forwards to their GP with what they think are bowel cancer symptoms. The symptoms get worse and worse and worse and it does turn out to be cancer.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called GP surgeries  “the bedrock of our NHS”.

“Every single patient in the NHS has a right to the very best care - and to see a GP who can spot cancer symptoms early enough to make a difference.

”That's why we've introduced a rigorous new inspection regime for GP surgeries to tackle this unacceptable variation across the country.

“The new chief inspector will speak up for patients without fear or favour, rating each surgery so we can celebrate the best practices and take tough action where standards aren't up to scratch.

Mike Bewick, deputy medical director at NHS England, said the level of variation between practices is too wide and that the data offered an ”important insight for commissioners as to where we should be doing better“.

”It's meant to have a positive effect on making sure practices have best systems in place and diagnostic ability.

“When people go to their GP with red flag symptoms such as coughing up blood or changes in their bowel you would expect those patients to be picked up.

”But just imagine the scenario when you have an elderly patient with many symptoms and the one they are most worried about is not the red flag.

“It's often due to complexity rather than mistake.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association General Practitioners' Committee, warned that “simplistic league tables fail to show the complexity” of spotting cancer.

“It is important that this data is used not to unreasonably penalise GPs who are working hard to deliver consistently high standards of care to patients.”

The data was released as part of a raft of information to help patients assess how well their GP practice is performing, and also shows some variation across England on other diseases, such as stroke or heart failure.

While most GP practices refer patients who have suffered a stroke or mini-stroke for further investigation, some do not refer all their patients, and patients at risk of stroke do not get the correct medication.

According to NHS England, a huge number of factors can affect an individual GP practice's performance - from the make-up of its population through to the quality of its clinical staff.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    IT Project Manager

    Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    IT Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album