British GP’s have poor cancer referral rates, says study

18 June 2015

British GP’s have poor cancer referral rates, says study

British GP’s have poor cancer referral rates, says study

GP’s in Britain are among the worst for referring patients to check for cancer according to an international study carried out by International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership. The study was also published in BMJ Openand has led to cancer charities calling for an urgent review of the cancer care system in Britain.

The research investigated the responses of almost 3,000 doctors who were asked to manage hypothetical situations involving patients with symptoms which could relate to lung, bowel or ovarian cancer. These responses were mapped against survival data for the United Kingdom, leading to the conclusion that the United Kingdom was one of the countries more reluctant to refer patients for examinations for potential cancer symptoms which in turn led to lower survival rates.

The study found that patients in the UK have to wait four times as long as those in Australia for scans and checks.

The study also found found that only 1 in 5 GP’s in England could offer services for CT and MRI scans without having to refer to hospital. This was half the level of access in Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. has received numerous enquiries from the public regarding delays to referrals from GP for symptoms which unfortunately turned out to mark advanced stages in certain types of cancer. These delays can exacerbate and directly impact the care and treatment that cancer patients require.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, said; “GPs have a difficult job to do.  They have to ensure those who need specialist tests get them, without overloading a health system that’s already strained. But their role as gatekeepers to further investigation and specialist care does need to be reviewed in the current context.” She re-iterated the need to address late diagnosis in the UK and therefore improve cancer survival rates across the country.

Professor Jane Maher, Joint Chief Medical Officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said, “If we are serious about improving cancer survival rates in the UK, we need to ensure that GPs are well supported to spot cancer symptoms early. We also need to ensure they are able to make quick referrals and that when referrals are made, the system responds in a timely manner.”

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