Guest Editorial - GPs providing quality cancer care for patients

GPs don't always get an easy ride from the media - the recent story of the Daily Mail's attempt to find the £700,000 'Super GP' is just one example - so it is refreshing to see a good news story about the work GPs do every day to provide high-quality care to their patients.

The RCGP's report of the findings of the National Audit of Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care, released last week, is one such story.

The report, published by the RCGP's Clinical Innovation and Research Centre, has revealed that nearly three-quarters of patients with symptoms of cancer in England are assessed, investigated and referred within a month of presenting to their GP.

This is not only a fantastic testament to the work of GPs, it is also fantastic news for our patients, who all too often are told that GPs are terrible at identifying cancer and refer too late for effective treatment.

That the opposite is revealed to be true, and three out of four patients visiting their GP were referred to a specialist after only one or two consultations, demonstrates that with the right diagnostics available, GPs are well placed to identify cancer quickly, and get their patients the treatment that they need.

Of course there are groups where, for a number of reasons, we have difficulty in making a quick diagnosis, it is something to be proud of that the majority are being identified and referred for treatment quickly - with nearly 60 per cent attending secondary care within two weeks of referral.

This is the largest and most comprehensive study of the primary care pathway to cancer diagnosis to date and, above all, it confirms that the tenets at the heart of quality general practice - continuity of care; patient centredness and shared decision making; and excellent clinical acumen - when teamed with access to the right diagnostics, provide a firm foundation that enables GPs to provide excellent cancer care.

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