11 January 2015

RCGP Statement on NHS England Cancer Taskforce

Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “For the first time ever, the number of people living with cancer is equal to those dying from it. This is a great achievement but UK survival rates are still lagging behind the European average. The new taskforce will help to address this and it is crucial that GPs are at the centre of its work.

“GPs are already doing a very good job of appropriately referring our patients who we suspect of having cancer. We are specialists in caring for the ‘whole person’ and many potential symptoms of cancer could be confused with other conditions that patients present with every day.

“An average GP might see eight new cases of cancer for every 8,000 patient consultations and 75% of referrals made after just one or two GP consultations lead to a positive diagnosis.

“However, there is always more that can be done and the early diagnosis programme to improve cancer outcomes, is particularly welcome – as is the proposal to create diagnostic centres that could do multiple tests in a single day.

“We are prepared to look at all the proposals, but in the case of self-referral we would need to understand how it could work effectively without diverting resources from other services.

“The taskforce will be an essential platform for us to look into innovative ways to speed up cancer diagnoses. Giving GPs direct, rapid access to diagnostic tools such as CT and MRI scans and ultrasound is something that the RCGP has long been calling for and could make a real difference to our patients’ lives.

“In the longer term, GPs play an important role in looking after patients living with cancer – in many cases as one of several chronic conditions – and it is important that the taskforce will explore ways to support GPs and their teams in this difficult and complex role, at a time when GPs are struggling with growing demand and unprecedented workforce and resource pressures.

“Timely diagnosis of cancer is a priority for the RCGP and we are delighted to be offering a key voice in the NHS England cancer taskforce - a very welcome step in supporting GPs to do even more for our patients with cancer – but the implementation of any initiatives must be coupled with significant investment in general practice, including more GPs, so that we can ensure patients receive the care they need at every stage of their condition.”

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7581
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

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.