11 May 2017

New Data to Support GPs Refer Cancer Patients Appropriately Should Be Welcomed, Says RCGP

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP, has responded to a new, upcoming study by Cancer Research UK which aims to find out if patients' prescription history can support GPs in diagnosing cancer earlier.

She said: “We know that timely diagnosis of cancer leads to better outcomes for our patients, so any new data that can support GPs refer patients appropriately should be welcomed – but we also need much better access to reliable, diagnostic tools in the community.

“Some of the most common and most dangerous cancers don’t have “red-flag” symptoms and can have very similar symptoms to more common, non life-threatening conditions. This makes diagnosis in general practice incredibly difficult, especially within the constraints of the standard 10-minute consultation – and currently we have one of the lowest access rates to diagnostic tests in Europe.

“Nevertheless, GPs are already doing a good job of appropriately referring our patients that we suspect of having cancer - 75% of patients found to have cancer are referred after only one or two GP consultations, and in the last five years the proportion of cancers diagnosed as an emergency has dropped from 25% to 20%, and a higher proportion of patients are being diagnosed at an earlier stage of the disease.

“Cancer is an enduring priority for the College, in partnership with Cancer Research UK, and we have developed a wide range of resources to support GPs in the timely identification of cancer, and keep up to date with the latest clinical guidelines and information in this area.”

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659


The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.