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NHS cancer patients 'endangered' by slow GP referrals

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NHS patients with stomach or oesophageal cancer are being endangered because of a lack of urgency by GPs in referring them to hospital, according to the National Oesophago-Gastric Cancer Audit.

The audit says late admissions delay diagnoses, and that late diagnosis is linked to more advanced diseases and a poorer chance of survival.

Between 13% to 66% of patients in the 30 regional cancer networks in England and Wales are not referred urgently, the report says.

In 12% of the patients with oesophageal and 23% of patients with stomach cancer, the disease was only discovered after an unplanned emergency admission to hospital.

Says NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan: “Although the audit indicates a lower mortality rate following surgery, which is encouraging, the fact remains many patients are diagnosed too late for surgery to be a possibility.”

The audit was commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership led by the Association of Upper Gastro-Intestinal Surgeons, the British Society of Gastroenterology and the Royal College of Surgeons of England and managed by the NHS Information Centre. It looked at the treatment in NHS hospitals of more than 12,000 patients.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • A close member of my family was repeatedly seeing her gp over a period of 6 years for a stomach complaint. He was given numerous repeat prescriptions for different antacids over this period. By the time he managed to persuade the gp to make a referral to a consultant, he could no longer hold down food for longer than a few hours and was rapidly losing weight.
    The gp finally made an 'emergency, referral, but not until he'd taken his xmas holiday; and by the time a diagnosis of gastric cancer was given, the cancer was at a very advanced stage and my relative died 4 months later.
    I really hope that gp's will take notice of this report, and stop being overly blase about obvious symptoms (and not so ovious ones) simply because of the 'low risk' of some areas of the population contracting diseases like this one.

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  • There are lots of incompetent doctors in practice. Lets face it we read about them every day in the papers!

    What does the GMC do about them...Erm not a lot would be the answer.....jobs for the boys and all that malarky.

    I know several GP's who never update their practice....the regulation of general practice is quite frankly a scandal.

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