New Figures Have Shown Thousands Of Cancer Patients Are Not Being Referred Quickly Enough
Thousands of patients could be missing out on quick treatment because doctors are not referring them to specialists soon enough.
The NHS has set a target for 95 per cent of people displaying cancer symptoms to be seen within two weeks.
Data released by NHS England suggested only a minority of cases handled by doctors are being fast-tracked to a specialist.
In around half of the GP practices sampled, fewer than 50 per cent of the patients on their books who were later found to have the disease were referred to a cancer consultant.
Survival rates can rise considerably if the disease is spotted and treated at an early stage and Stuart Barber, head of communications and campaigns at Beating Bowel Cancer, believes the figures are concerning.
"GPs have the tools. There are clear symptoms, there is a clear screening programme and if a patient visits their doctor with what are symptoms of bowel cancer they should have the confidence they are going to be referred quickly," he commented.
According to figures provided by Cancer Research UK, more than one in three people in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime. The equivalent of 890 people were diagnosed with the disease every day in 2010.
Cancer incidence rates have increased by more than a third in Great Britain since the mid-1970s.
The NHS insisted these latest figures are not entirely representative of GP performance.
Sean Duffy, national clinical director for cancer at NHS England, said the health organisation is fully aware of the importance of early diagnosis, but in many cases people are diagnosed with cancer by staff in accident and emergency units, rather than by their own doctor.
He added that other patients might be told they have cancer when visiting a hospital for an unrelated matter. Some people also develop cancer further down the line without displaying specific symptoms during an earlier appointment with their doctor.
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The figures that have been released show a worrying trend and it is important that steps are taken to ensure that thousands of people are not being overlooked.
“Cancer is a serious and debilitating condition and those battling the illness deserve the best possible care. Such a standard of treatment can only be provided if conditions like this are diagnosed quickly and correctly at the earliest possible stage, but these figures suggest some work needs to be done to make improvements in this regard.
“The regions which display the lowest figures in terms of diagnosis need to be given specific attention to ensure that extra support is given to local NHS services.”
Lisa Jordan - Partner