Greater access to diagnostic tools in the community needed to further improve appropriate cancer referral, says RCGP

Publication date: 26 April 2019

Responding to new research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine on lung cancer in non-smokers, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Lung cancer can be very difficult to diagnose in primary care as one key symptom is coughing, which can also be a sign of much more common, less serious conditions – particularly if the patient is a non-smoker.

"Despite this, GPs are doing a very good job of diagnosing cancers generally and it's credit to our colleagues’ hard work and vigilance that 75% of patients found to have cancer are referred after only one or two consultations, and that since 2008 the proportion of cancers diagnosed as an emergency have dropped from 23% to less than 19%.

"GPs are always mindful of pressures across the NHS, so we will only refer if we genuinely suspect a patient has any form of cancer. One key way to further improve appropriate referrals is to make sure that GPs have better access to diagnostic tools in the community, and the appropriate training to use them.

"Ultimately, we also need to see more resources in the community, including more GPs, so that we can continue to offer improved access and deliver the best possible care to all our patients, including those with cancer and those we suspect of having cancer.

"Cancer is an enduring priority for the RCGP, and we have worked with Cancer Research UK and others to develop resources for GPs and other healthcare professionals to support them in the timely diagnosis of cancer."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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