Episode 046: Urgent cancer referrals in primary care have more than doubled

In this episode we speak to Dr Thomas Round who is a GP in East London and NIHR doctoral research fellow.

Paper: Cancer detection via primary care urgent referral and association with practice characteristics: a retrospective cross-sectional study in England from 2009/2010 to 2018/2019

There is considerable variation in the use of urgent suspected cancer referrals (2-week wait [2WW]) between general practices in England, with increased use associated with improved outcomes for patients with cancer. There has been limited research into the practice and population characteristics associated with cancer detection via 2WW referral pathways. Over the 10-year period up to 2018/2019, yearly 2WW referrals more than doubled to more than 2.24 million, leading to an increase in cancer detection and 66,172 additional cancers diagnosed via 2WW in 2018/2019 compared with 2009/2010.

Higher cancer detection via 2WW referrals was associated with larger practices and those with younger GPs, although the relationship with GP age was attenuated in more recent years. Of concern are decreases in 2WW referrals during the COVID-19 pandemic and the appearance of potential disparity in cancer detection, with lower rates in practices that serve more deprived populations.

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