Incentivise GPs for cancer referral

GPs need better incentives to follow cancer referral guidelines, despite research showing that urgent referrals are failing to improve outcomes for lung cancer, say cancer experts.

Lung cancer referral
Lung cancer referral

For the study, referral methods and outcomes were examined for 889 UK patients diagnosed with lung, colorectal, prostate or ovarian cancer.

Among 409 patients with lung cancer, those diagnosed after urgent referral had a more advanced cancer stage at diagnosis than those diagnosed via other routes.

Analysis of survival data for 303 lung cancer patients also showed that those diagnosed through urgent referrals had shorter survival times. This was not the case for the other three cancers. But instead of rejecting urgent cancer referral guidelines, GPs should be extra vigilant for the symptoms of cancers said lead researcher and Cardiff GP Dr Richard Neal.

'GPs are not using the referral guidelines properly. Some patients who fulfil referral guidelines aren't being referred,' he said.

Incentives to follow these guidelines could cut the time between patients developing symptoms and referral to secondary care, explained Dr Neal.

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