Patients lose faith in healthcare professionals if it takes more than three trips to general practice to be referred for cancer tests states research by Cancer Research UK scientists.
The researchers from University College London and the University of Cambridge found that of the nearly 60,000 survey respondents diagnosed through their GP or nurse, almost 13,300 (23%) had been seen three or more times before being referred for cancer tests.
Thirty-nine per cent of those who experienced referral delays were disatisfied with the support they received from their GP and nurses compared to 28% of those referred after one or two primary care visits.
Overall, patients who had seen their GP three or more times before being referred were more likely to report negative experiences across 10 of 12 different aspects of their care. Eighteen per cent of these patients were dissatisfied with the way they were told they had cancer, compared to 33% of those who were referred promptly.
Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK's GP expert, said: It's important we now step up efforts to ensure potential cancer symptoms can be investigated promptly, such as through the new NICE referral guidelines launched last month to give GPs more freedom to quickly refer patients with worrying symptoms. This will hopefully contribute to improving the patient experience, one of the six strategic priorities recommended by the UK's Cancer Task Force last week.'Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said: 'This is the first time we've had direct feedback from patients on such a large scale to show how the timeliness of their diagnosis colours their experience of the care they later receive. It's another good reason to highlight the importance of diagnosing cancer as quickly as possible, not just to give patients the best chances of survival, but also to improve their experience of the care they receive throughout their cancer journey.'