Cancer: Diagnosis

Department of Health written question – answered on 2nd July 2015.

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Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Opposition Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what comparative assessment he has made of the average number of times (a) pancreatic and (b) other cancer patients visited their GP for diagnosis before being referred to hospital; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

Data on average number of visits to general practitioners (GPs) before referral to a specialist is not centrally collected. However, the most recent national Cancer Patient Experience Survey published by NHS England in September 2014 showed that, of those cancer patients who saw their GP before going to hospital, 75% reported seeing their GP once or twice before they were referred to a specialist. Further analysis of the survey showed that 43% of pancreatic cancer patients had to visit their GP three or more times before being referred to a specialist, compared to 25% of all cancers.

NHS England is working jointly with Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support to test seven new approaches to identifying cancer more quickly. The aim is to evaluate a number of initiatives across more than 60 sites around the country to collect evidence about what makes the most difference to patients.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published an updated guideline “Suspected cancer: recognition and referral” on 23 June 2015. The guideline reflects latest evidence and will continue to support GPs to identify patients, including those with symptoms of suspected pancreatic cancer, and urgently refer them as appropriate.

In January 2015, NHS England announced an independent Cancer Taskforce to develop a five-year strategy for England which will recommend improvements across the cancer pathway, including awareness and early diagnosis. The strategy will be published in the summer.

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