Genetic risk training improves GP cancer referrals

GPs trained in how to refer pat­ients at greater genetic risk of diseases to specialist primary care-based counselling made more appropriate cancer referrals, research has found.

Training boosts referral accuracy (Photograph: JH Lancy)
Training boosts referral accuracy (Photograph: JH Lancy)

Senior clinicians said educating GPs about genetic counselling could improve patient access to specialist genetics services.

Researchers from University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust recruited 73 GP practices, covering 303 GPs.

These were randomised to take part in a seminar led by a genetic counsellor, or to receive no extra education.

The seminar examined case scenarios of patients with cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, breast cancer and a child with dysmorphic features.

GPs were given information on referral access and cancer family history referral guidelines. All practices were then randomised to offer their pat­ients primary or secondary care-led genetic counselling.

Researchers found that, although the educated GPs did not make more referrals to specialist genetics services overall, they made more appropriate cancer referrals.

Attendance for appointments in primary care and hospitals were similar. But primary care appointments were 33% closer to patients’ homes and almost 50% cheaper to travel to.

Lead author Dr Greta Westwood said: ‘Integrated primary care genetic services support GPs in appropriate cancer referral, providing care in the right place by the right person.’

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