Letters: Urging cancer patients to surgeries is ill advised

An open letter to public health minister Dawn Primarolo after she urged cancer patients to visit practices to discuss free scrips when guidance and documentation was not available.

Dear Ms Primarolo,

I was interested to hear that you had urged cancer patients to make GP appointments 'this week'.

Had you considered the following points?

1. The forms which need to submitted by 24 March are not due to be delivered to surgeries until February.

2. Do you realise that surgeries are busy trying to cope in the middle of the flu season?

3. Cancer treatment affects the immune system. It would be negligent to encourage a patient with low immunity to sit in a surgery at this time of year without good reason.

4. A GP will already have knowledge of a patient's condition. The forms can be signed without a visit to the surgery.

5. Have you considered taking advice from a health professional who has some knowledge of primary care?

6. Will the forms make it clear that the prescription charge exemption is intended for patients undergoing treatment and needing medication for the side-effects of treatment, not for patients who have had a cancer diagnosis at some time and are now fully recovered?

I would suggest that you consult with front-line health staff in future before encouraging mass movement of already sick people for no good reason.

Dr Jennifer Imeson, Willesden Green, north London.

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