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Cancer Research UK - Review to speed up GP cancer referrals opens

An audit of GP services in the UK has been launched today to find out how quickly cancer patients are referred, what tests they have and what referral pathways GP practices use.

The voluntary National Cancer Diagnosis Audit will collect and analyse data including how many cancers are diagnosed, types of cancers diagnosed, number of tests and consultations GPs use and how many cancers are diagnosed late or early.

These will be compared with the national average.

Work on the audit is being carried out in partnership with Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support(link is external)Public Health England(link is external) and The Royal College of General Practitioners(link is external), supported by NHS England(link is external) and Public Health England. The organisations have begun recruiting GP practices.

The review will start by looking at data from primary and secondary care in 2014 to understand how cancer patients in the UK are diagnosed.

This will then be compared with data from 2015 onwards to understand how diagnosis has improved over the years in line with 2015 guidelines from The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on suspected cancer recognition and referral.

The audit will help improve the early diagnosis of cancer and benchmark services across the UK. Data collection will run from September to November 2016 and a report detailing the findings is due to be published in spring 2017.

Cancer Research UK and Macmillan GP leads will support GPs to collect data, then create action plans to improve cancer diagnosis in each practice and Clinical Commissioning Group.

Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s GP expert and the Royal College of GPs cancer lead said: “This audit will help improve care and outcomes for cancer patients across the UK. It will highlight challenges in diagnosis and best practice to ensure that patients receive the best care possible. Although we are all under pressure on a daily basis, this is an opportunity to make a difference to cancer outcomes both now and into the future and I’d like to encourage all of my fellow GPs to sign up right away.”

Dr Anthony Cunliffe, Macmillan’s GP lead for early diagnosis, said: “Everyone should have the best possible chance to survive cancer and we know that being diagnosed early is key to making that happen. This audit will help us to identify what is working well, and what issues are leading to delays, and enable this learning to be shared widely.  The more GP practices we can get involved with the audit, the more robust and useful the learning will be, and will more likely lead to improved outcomes for patients. After all, early diagnosis can make all the difference in saving lives.”

Lucy Elliss-Brookes, Head of Cancer analysis at Public Health England, said: “We are privileged in England to have access to high quality cancer data, however most of this comes from hospitals and we are not routinely able to analyse the rich information that is collected by GPs and other primary care professionals.  This national audit will enable us and other researchers to understand much more about the beginning of the pathway for patients diagnosed with cancer, and to better pinpoint why some cancers are picked up earlier than others.”

For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

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