Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has today reported an “unacceptable variation” between different rates of cancer diagnosis across the UK in 2012 and 2013.
It said that 20,000 cases could have been spotted sooner if diagnosis rates in ‘good’ areas like Swindon, Bath and Wiltshire were the same in poor areas like Merseyside.
Interestingly, Dr Matthew Ridd, a GP and senior lecturer in primary care at the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care, in previous study from CRUK published in April 2015, found that for some cancers such as lung and bowel, seeing a regular doctor “might not be the best person to spot those symptoms in the first place. So in some cases getting a second opinion from a different doctor could speed up the time to diagnosis.”
Much has been made of continuity of care in general practice, and research in primary care has gone out of its way to prove that continuity of care is a positive factor in 50% of consultations, particularly with the elderly and those with chronic conditions.
But more research needs to be done to look at where continuity of care falls short, and where diversity of care – something familiar to locum GPs: a fresh pair of eyes, a second opinion – has a positive role to play e.g. in cancer diagnosis, and how these models can be proactively deployed in primary care.