College defends GPs on lung cancer diagnosis

Publication date: 05 February 2020

The RCGP has responded to a Guardian article 'Late diagnosis of lung cancer hitting survival rate, study says' that featured on Friday 31 January. This letter has been published today.

Sir,

It is wrong to put the blame of late-stage lung cancer diagnosis on GPs, who overall are doing a good job of referring patients with suspected cancers, with more than 75% of patients who are found to have cancer being referred after just one or two consultations.

The symptoms of lung cancer – principally a prolonged cough – are also symptoms of more common, less serious conditions, making the decision to refer a difficult one, as it must be balanced with risks associated with overdiagnosis, and overburdening specialist services.

GPs need better access to diagnostic tests in the community and training to use them and interpret the results so that our decision to refer can be as informed as it possibly can be.

What GPs don't need is undue criticism for a situation beyond their control when they are working under intense pressure, without the sufficient time or resources required to provide the holistic care that GPs excel at delivering.

Professor Martin Marshall
Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners
London, NW1

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7494/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 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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