GP audit on cancer care

Greater cancer awareness may be needed from patients and GPs.

GPs are to be audited on cancer referrals and palliative care this year, in a bid to boost poor survival rates.

Cancer czar Professor Mike Richards has asked the RCGP to lead a nationwide primary care audit of all patients newly diagnosed with cancer.

It is hoped that the scheme will help GPs diagnose cancer early, as well as improve palliative care, and could lead to new service models being piloted.

Professor Richards said: 'What we're hoping to do is to help GPs to identify patient groups where late diagnosis may be a problem.'

A global survey published in May showed that the UK lagged behind France, Spain, Germany and Italy for five-year cancer survival rates.

Improving early diagnosis is the only way the UK can improve cancer survival rates and bring them in line with other countries, said Professor Richards.

'This is not easy for GPs,' he said. 'The average GP sees around eight new patients with cancer each year. They see hundreds of patients who have symptoms that overlap with cancer.'

Using the audit, the RCGP will look at how often a patient with relevant symptoms visited their GP before they were referred to hospital, how long it takes before a definitive diagnosis is made and also examine clinical practice.

With this information, Professor Richards hopes to identify the patient groups most likely to present late with cancer symptoms and improve knowledge among both the public and profession.

RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field said the audit was not intended to criticise GPs but would hopefully identify problems that may be detrimental for patient survival.

Greater awareness of cancer symptoms may be needed from both patients and GPs.

'Part of it might be that in some illnesses, patients are attending two or three times with symptoms before referral,' said Professor Field.

'We suspect that it may be different (problems) for different types of cancer.'

In March, the RCGP will meet with Professor Richards, the National Patient Safety Agency, Macmillan Cancer Support and the National Cancer Research Institute to work out exactly how they will carry out the audit.

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