CANCER sufferers have a lower chance of survival if forced to get a GP referral before seeing a specialist, research suggests.
Patients in healthcare systems offering direct access to hospital consultants were 11 per cent more likely to be alive a year later.
Cancer patients forced to get GP referral before seeing a specialist have a lower chance of survival, research found[/caption]
One reason for the disparity may be poor GP access putting people off seeking help until their illness or symptoms have worsened.
Around 90 per cent of bowel cancer patients survive for at least five years if it is picked up early. But that falls to five per cent when identified late.
Figures show 75 per cent of cancer patients in Britain are referred by their GP after one or two consultations.
Researchers analysed 25 studies into GP care and patient outcomes.
They found that needing to see a family doctor before hospital treatment was linked to lower healthcare use and spending.
However, one of the studies found cancer patients needing to see a GP first — such as in the UK — had a survival rate of 66 per cent.
But the figure rose to 73 per cent for those in countries where they were able to go straight to hospital.
Lead researcher Dr Geva Greenfield, of Imperial College London, said: “There is a trade-off. It is better to have gatekeeping and see a specialist promptly than swamping hospitals.
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But if the problem is GP access in the first place, then it may be part of the problem that we see in the UK.”
Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of GPs, said the study “also highlights a chronic lack of access to diagnostic tests in primary care”.
NHS bosses have set new targets for better tumour detection to help slash cancer deaths.
Patients in healthcare systems offering direct access to hospital consultants were 11 per cent more likely to be alive a year later[/caption]
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