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31.07.15

Cancer patients lose faith in care if diagnosed late

Patients who have to see a GP more than three times before being referred for cancer tests are more likely to be dissatisfied with their overall care, new research shows.

The study, carried out by Cancer Research UK scientists at University College London (UCL) and University of Cambridge, surveyed more than 70,000 cancer patients.

Those who had experienced referral delays were more inclined to report negative experiences across 10 of 12 different aspects of their care.

Of the 13,300 patients seen three or more times before being referred to tests, 39% were frustrated with the support they received from their GP and nurses.

This compares to 28% of the patients referred to tests after just one or two visits to the doctor.

Nearly one-fifth of patients who experienced delays were unhappy with the way they were told they had cancer. 

A whopping 40% of them also expressed disapproval of the way hospital staff and GPs worked together to provide the best possible care, compared to just over 30% of patients referred promptly.

They were generally more likely to lack confidence and trust in the ward nurses and to suspect information had been deliberately withheld from them during treatment.

Study author and Cancer Research UK scientist at UCL, Dr Georgios Lyratzopoulos, said: “This research shows that first impressions go a long way in determining how cancer patients view their experience of cancer treatment. A negative experience of diagnosis can trigger loss of confidence in their care throughout the cancer journey.”

He added that delays are often due to a lack of accurate and easy-to-use tests and emphasises the need for new diagnostic tools to improve the care experience for patients.

NICE had previously updated its guidance to improve early diagnosis rates after research suggested up to 10,000 people in England could be dying because of late cancer diagnoses.

Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s GP expert, built on these referral guidelines to call for greater efforts to ensure symptoms can be investigated faster.

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