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Revealed: 40 per cent of cancer patients in repeat GP visits before hospital referral

By Richard Guttridge | Wolverhampton | Health | Published:

More than two in five patients diagnosed with cancer in the West Midlands and Staffordshire required repeat visits to their GP before being sent for tests, figures reveal.

The latest NHS National Cancer Patient Experience Survey, carried out on behalf of NHS England, attracted nearly 74,000 responses from cancer patients across the country.

Area by area:

Wolverhampton

The survey was completed by 364 people with cancer in the Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Group area, and found that dozens saw family doctors at least twice before being referred for tests in 2018.

Of 234 patients who saw their GP with symptoms, 24 made five or more visits before they were eventually sent to hospital for further investigation.

Another 29 saw their GP three or four times, while 52 visited twice.

Overall, 45 per cent required repeat visits before being sent for tests.

Asked to rate their care on a scale from zero, very poor, to 10, very good, respondents gave an average score of 8.6 – lower than the previous year's 8.8.

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This compared to an 8.8 average rating for cancer care across England.

Sandwell

The survey, completed by 330 people with cancer in the Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group area, found that dozens saw family doctors at least twice before being referred for tests in 2018.

Of 233 patients who saw their GP with symptoms, 26 made five or more visits before they were eventually sent to hospital for further investigation.

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Another 37 saw their GP three or four times, while 44 visited twice.

Overall, 46 per cent required repeat visits before being sent for tests.

Asked to rate their care on a scale from zero, very poor, to 10, very good, respondents gave an average score of 8.4 – lower than the previous year’s 8.7.

Dudley

The survey, completed by 448 people with cancer in the Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group area, found that dozens saw family doctors at least twice before being referred for tests in 2018.

Of 314 patients who saw their GP with symptoms, 33 made five or more visits before they were eventually sent to hospital for further investigation.

Another 43 saw their GP three or four times, while 47 visited twice.

Overall, 39 per cent required repeat visits before being sent for tests.

Asked to rate their care on a scale from zero, very poor, to 10, very good, respondents gave an average score of 8.5 – lower than the previous year’s 8.6.

Walsall

The survey, completed by 364 people with cancer in the Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group area, found that dozens saw family doctors at least twice before being referred for tests in 2018.

Of 248 patients who saw their GP with symptoms, 17 made five or more visits before they were eventually sent to hospital for further investigation.

Another 43 saw their GP three or four times, while 46 visited twice.

Overall, 43 per cent required repeat visits before being sent for tests.

Asked to rate their care on a scale from zero, very poor, to 10, very good, respondents gave an average score of 8.9 – higher than the previous year’s 8.7.

Staffordshire

The survey, completed by 578 people with cancer in the Stafford and Surrounds and Cannock Chase Clinical Commissioning Group areas, found that dozens saw family doctors at least twice before being referred for tests in 2018.

Of 401 patients who saw their GP with symptoms, 33 made five or more visits before they were eventually sent to hospital for further investigation.

Another 60 saw their GP three or four times, while 76 visited twice.

Overall, 42 per cent required repeat visits before being sent for tests.

Asked to rate their care on a scale from zero, very poor, to 10, very good, respondents gave an average score of 8.8 - roughly the same as the year before.

Patients' satisfaction 'at a record high'

Ruth May, NHS England's chief nurse, said: "Patients' satisfaction with their cancer care remains at a record high, with nine out of 10 patients happy with the care and support they've received, which is testament to the hard work and compassion of NHS staff.

"This is despite record numbers getting checked for cancer and surviving it, with 2.2 million getting checked for cancer last year.

"The NHS Long Term Plan will ensure that even more people receive earlier cancer checks alongside the best possible care and lifesaving new treatments."

Dr Richard Roope, clinical lead for cancer for the Royal College of GPs, said that despite "increased pressures" facing GPs, emergency presentations of cancer are at an all-time low.

He added: "It is notoriously difficult to diagnose many cancers in primary care. Particularly in the early stages of the disease, often there are either no symptoms or they might be vague and indicative of other, more common conditions.

"GPs and our teams also need to be mindful of onward pressures in secondary care, and often come in for criticism for over-referral, as well as not referring enough.

"The most effective way to address this is to give GPs and our teams in primary care better access to the appropriate diagnostic tools in the community, and the training to use them."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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