- Researchers believe that the ease of getting appointments with family doctors may play a crucial role in patients’ survival chances
19:30 EST, 9 August 2012
01:42 EST, 10 August 2012
Patients who struggle to get an appointment with their GP within 48 hours are more at risk of being diagnosed with cancer too late, researchers claim.
They are far more likely only to have the cancer diagnosed in AE – by which time it is often so advanced it is difficult to treat.
Researchers believe that the ease of getting appointments with family doctors may play a crucial role in patients’ survival chances.
Concerning: Patients who struggle to get an appointment with their GP within 48 hours are more at risk of being diagnosed with cancer too late, researchers claim
Those who are told to come back next week, next fortnight or even later may be more inclined to just ignore their symptoms and convince themselves they are not serious.
But those who can see their GP easily are more likely to have the symptoms spotted while the disease is still treatable.
Britain has one of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe and experts believe this is largely because cancers are often diagnosed too late.
Up to a quarter of all patients only have their cancers diagnosed in AE or following an emergency referral to hospital from their GP.
Such cases are known as ‘emergency presentations’ and by this stage patients are often very ill and their survival chances slim.
Academics from Imperial College London looked at patients at 8,000 GP practices over the course of three years from 2007 to 2010.
Hard statistics: Up to a quarter of all patients only have their cancers diagnosed in AE or following an emergency referral to hospital from their GP
They compared how easy it was for patients to get appointments at the surgery with the likelihood patients would be diagnosed with cancer too late – either at AE or through an emergency referral.
Patients whose surgeries were usually able to offer appointments within the next 48 hours were 30 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with cancer following an emergency presentation.
The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, also found that patients in poorer areas of England were 50 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with cancer too late.
Dr Alex Bottle, study author from Imperial College London, said: ‘Our new research highlights just how crucial it is for cancer survival to have fast and easy access to primary care.
‘GP practices where more patients are able to get an appointment with their GP within 48 hours were less likely to have patients turn up as emergency admissions to hospital.
‘Previous work has shown that nearly a quarter of cancer patients are first diagnosed through an emergency admission to hospital and that these patients have a poorer chance of surviving cancer. We wanted to find out if there was anything about these patients – their age, sex, ethnicity, where they lived, the type of cancer they had that meant they were more likely to first present with cancer as an emergency. We also wanted to see whether there were any characteristics of their GP practice that influenced unplanned cancer admissions.’
Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘We know that in the UK we have an unacceptably high proportion of cancers being diagnosed via an emergency admission to hospital. The important message remains to go to your GP without delay if you have persistent symptoms or unusual bodily changes that worry you.’
Share this article:
Here’s what other readers have said. Why not add your thoughts,
or debate this issue live on our message boards.
The comments below have not been moderated.
In my case this was true. I saw the GP at 9.30 am on a Friday morning, I told him I thought I was anaemic and he sent me to the nurse for a blood test. That same evening 12 hours later at 9pm I was called by the local hospital haematology department Registrar and told to come into hospital immediately as my haemoglobin was only 6, half of what it should be. Three hours later I was told by a doctor that I had either lymphoma or leukaemia and was moved into isolation. Two days later I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and the next day started aggressive chemotherapy for the condition. If I had been left I would died within three months. I am now 100% in remission. My GP is pretty good though and I have been with him for over twenty years. He knows that if I say something is wrong, then it is.
Patients need to be more assertive when it comes to seeing their GP or doctor in AE. The patient knows better than anyone when something is wrong, so don’t be afraid to ask to be referred for further invesigations (bloods, scans etc).
If you are not getting anywhere with your doctor tell them that you want further investigations and if the doctor isn’t prepared to refer you, escalate to the senior partner and then the health authority.
When you can’t get appointments at the GP………………….
When you finally get appointment but you get referred here there and everywhere – waiting the max 18 weeks each time…. so it takes 1.5 YEARS to get treatment and then they blame it on another injury SIX YEARS ago that they refused to treat because they lied and said it was 100%, now admit it is only 75% working only because they want to fob you off to that 6 yr old injury instead of dealing with the latest…..not fit for purpose WHERE ARE THE WITCHDOCTORS? They will be faster…….NHS seems to be waiting for patients to die instead.
Our doctor does no longer wish to see us,you have to speak to him on the phone,the NHS is a joke now,far too many of us are using it and ,things will just get worse,compared to France and even Portugal our health service now is well below par.test results take well over a week even if you have cancer,
Only 48 hours ? I WISH ! Try 4 WEEKS and THAT is the norm in Stockton on Tees !
Revolting Pensioner !
That’s ME !!!
GPs, on the whole, do seem particularly poor at spotting cancer. I have spotted cancers in two people who I know had previously visited their GP about the problem that they had. Plus another I was concerned enough about to phone the person’s GP myself and say that the whole family thought that they had cancer and why was nothing being done. Yet another family member who had all of the risk factors and symptoms of the type of cancer that she had, took more than a year to be refereed to a consultant, cancer was missed on the u/s then her notes went missing for almost another year – by which time she had convinced herself that it couldn’t be cancer as someone would be doing something .
This happened to a friend’s aunty. She had been experiencing difficulty with eating and was suffering from terrible acid reflux which her GP told her to take Gaviscon for. Every appointment she had was booked weeks in advance and nothing was being done. She then had a very bad bout of burning stomach pain and ended up in A and E on the Friday afternoon. Tests revealed advanced stomach cancer and she was dead by the Monday. She actually spent the weekend in hospital making plans for her funeral with her family and sorting her will out.
Remember the days when you went into the surgery, saw the front receptionist who asked which doctor you want to see, took a number or disc, and then sat down, and waited ? Of course sometimes an emergency case arrived or the doctor were called out! So you waited longer! When you actually got in, the Dr., who might even recognise you, would actually examine you, and talk face to face, instead of typing into a computer? Nowadays, you wait for an appointment for 2-3 weeks or told phone in the morning at 8am? Then, if your’e lucky, you might see a complete stranger who reads his computer, and then refers you to another appointment, and you start the ball rolling again?
Personally I’m very happy with the NHS at the moment. Was getting dizzy spells and headaches for about a year. Went to my GP, got an appointment the same day, got referred to an ENT specialist, saw him 2 days later, then another 3 days later I was getting an MRI scan and the following week saw a neurologist. It was great service. Of course there are horror stories about the NHS and bad things do happen, there are however a lot more success stories for each horror stories – but only one type gets coverage in this paper.
Another anti NHS tale 48 hours would make little or no difference to cancer. The wonderful thing about the NHS is that the patient doesn’t pay to see the GP in many countries they do even if it is refunded later. This causes many to wait months not a few hours. Cancer is often diagnosed by chance in fact many die of other causes without ever knowing they have it. The post mortem often shows the cancer to be quite well advenced when the patient died suddenly often of a heart attack. This has happened to a couple of my friends lately
The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.