Treatment delays for cancer patients

CANCER patients face delays of up to four months for hospital treatment after their symptoms are recognised by family doctors, according to a study of diagnosis and referrals published today.

Doctors have been urged to review their diagnostic procedures in the light of the long waiting times for treatment of some of the most common types of cancer that emerge from the four-year study.

Men who developed the disease in the prostate gland had the longest delays between diagnosis and hospital treatment - 16 weeks on average. That compared with 13 weeks for people with stomach and oesophagus cancers, and 10 weeks for those with lung cancer.

Breast cancer sufferers had the quickest treatment, within four weeks. Most were referred by GPs for hospital investigation immediately on suspecting that the disease was present.

The study analysed the speed of diagnosis, referral and treatment of nearly 1,500 people with confirmed cancer diagnosis in Devon between 1986 and 1990. Robert Jones and Timothy Dudgeon, researchers at the University of Exeter's postgraduate medical school, analysed the records kept by 245 GPs over the four years. They found the delays were concentrated during the period between the initial GP consultation and the time of referral.

According to a survey published earlier this year by the Royal College of General Practitioners, patients wait longer to see a specialist in the UK than in any other European country. Only 39 per cent of British patients get their first hospital appointment within four weeks of a GP referral, compared with 92 per cent in France and 85 per cent in Spain.

The authors of today's study in the British Journal of General Practice suggest the long intervals may be occurring because GPs are commonly failing to spot symptoms of cancer, or wrongly attributing them to other illnesses. 'The reasons for delay among general practitioners and hospital staff as a whole are complex and require further investigation.'

People who suffer ill-health as a result of passive smoking at work may be able to sue their employers for damages, according to a legal opinion obtained by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Employers break their common-law duty of care for staff health at work when they deny them smoke-free air, it states. The dangers of passive smoking have now been sufficiently documented to warrant prosecution by environmental health officers, or the Health and Safety Executive, of those employers who allow it, Patrick Elias QC says.

With the backing of the Health Education Authority and the National Asthma Campaign, ASH is distributing copies of the legal opinion to environmental health officers and other enforcement agencies in the hope of prompting a test case.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before