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Third of cancer patients visit GP twice before being referred

National survey also reveals lack of information about financial help

One third (32%) of cancer patients had to visit their GP at least twice before being sent to hospital for tests, a report reveals.

The NHS National Cancer Patient Experience Survey, completed by nearly 70,000 people with cancer, found 17% of patients went to their GP at least three times before being referred and 6% had to go five or more times.

Overall, 43% of patients were sent for tests after seeing their GP just once and 12% after attending a screening appointment.

The survey also found only 56% of patients were definitely told about the long-term side effects of treatment and just 35% reported being given a care plan.

A further 58% said they were not given information about how to receive financial help or other benefits.

“Cancer affects everyone differently in countless, complex ways – from mental health issues to money worries – so it is imperative that patients feel fully informed about both their diagnosis and what support is available to help them cope,” said Moira Fraser, director of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support.

When asked to rate their care on a scale of zero (very poor) to 10 (very good), respondents gave an average rating of 8.8.

Compared to last year’s survey, there were significant improvements on 21 questions, while scores deteriorated significantly on one and there was no significant difference on 30.

The report said the national picture of experience of care remains inconsistent, with some elements of care rated more positively than others.

For example, patients appeared to get more information on some areas (e.g. free prescriptions) than on others (e.g. benefits); information about chemotherapy/radiotherapy appears to be better before treatment than during it; and care and support from health and social services at home appears to be less positively experienced than care received in hospitals.