GPs need to be encouraged to become gate openers rather than asked to be gate keepers

10th December 2018

On Tuesday 4th December, the C the Signs Team exhibited and presented at the Britain Against Cancer 2018 Conference, hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC). Over the past 20 years, the APPGC has achieved much needed improvements in cancer care. However, cancer survival statistics in the UK still lag behind in comparison to our international counterparts. Moreover, there are currently 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK today, with this figure predicted to rise to 4 million by 2030. The cancer community must adapt to ensure everyone living with cancer has access to sufficient treatment and support to meet their needs. The Britain Against Cancer Conference took the opportunity to reflect on future priorities for improving cancer care and support. Several fantastic keynote and panel speakers from across the health policy landscape, as well as leading experts in the cancer community took to the stage including, Jonathan Ashworth MP, Nick Robinson and Cally Palmer CBE.

Here are the most pertinent take home-messages from this year’s event:

GPs need to be empowered to become gate openers, not gate keepers

It was raised that GPs need to feel encouraged to refer as many patients as necessary to test for potential cancer, without limitation. Patients ought not to feel like their GP is a barrier to accessing diagnostics, but the enabler. C the Signs empowers GPs to refer patients at risk of cancer at the first presentation of signs or symptoms.

Early diagnosis rates vary greatly across the country and CCGs

The NHS 70 years ago was grounded on the principles of equal access to healthcare, yet, health inequalities are widening more than ever before. C the Signs hopes to tackle the inequalities of cancer diagnosis and treatment by standardising early diagnosis across the UK.

Are GPs aware of the often-vague symptoms which may in fact be cancer?

There are two main problems surrounding the early diagnosis of cancer.

  • Patients recognising the symptoms of cancer and presenting to their GP
  • GPs not always recognising vague signs and symptoms as possible cancer symptoms when the patient present to them.

There are a huge number of possible combinations of vague signs and symptoms which are near impossible to remember within the time-constraints of a 10-minute patient consultation. The C the Signs tool tackles this problem by ensuring the GP identifies a patient’s risk of cancer from their vague signs and symptoms at the first appointment and signposts GPs to the most appropriate test, investigation or referral for the patient.

The trauma of cancer is not purely biological and does not end when treatment ends

A holistic approach to cancer care is needed, considering the bio-psycho-social needs of patients. This highlights the importance of social prescribing. The C the Signs tool also features a ‘Resources’ section, allowing GPs to easily signpost patients to local support and information, making better use of social prescribing initiatives and all tailored to the patient. We often hear patients become aware of available support far too late into their cancer journey. Patients should feel supported right from the diagnosis, or better yet, from the time of the referral.

The future priorities for cancer care in Britain are clear; reducing health inequalities, ensuring appropriate support during and beyond treatment and, empowering GPs to refer patients. It was an honour to present at the Britain Against Cancer 2018 Conference and to meet others in the cancer community who are equally as passionate about improving early diagnosis and survival for people in Britain.