Shropshire Star comment: Worrying results for vital tests
Figures revealed today showing the number of times cancer patients visited their doctors before being sent for tests give cause for concern.
In some parts of the region more than two in five patients required repeat GP visits before getting a referral.
It comes as a new report showed that cancer survival rates in the UK – while improving markedly – still lag way behind those of comparable countries.
One of the issues is clearly related to staff.
As Cancer Research UK has pointed out, countries such as Canada and Denmark have a far higher ratio of specialist cancer staff to patients than Britain.
We now know that more people than ever are surviving cancer thanks to research and improvements in care, but there is still room for further improvements.
The figures show we can do better as a country – and particularly in the West Midlands.
It is a sad fact that GPs are leaving the industry in their droves, with many citing unmanageable workloads as one of the key reasons behind their decision.
It should also be noted that it is incredibly difficult for doctors to diagnose many cancers while patients are in primary care.
As medical experts have pointed out, particularly in the early stages of the disease, often there are either no symptoms or they might be vague and indicative of other, more common conditions.
Of course, all of this is part of a much wider issue: the strain on our NHS in general.
Services in all sections of care have been strained to breaking point in recent years, and although the Government has promised new funding, it will be years before the impact of the new resources is fully felt.
The shortage of doctors and nurses is not an issue that can be resolved overnight. It has plagued the NHS now for years and must be resolved urgently.
As far as cancer care is concerned, the very least that GPs should expect is to have at their disposal is the best available equipment – as well as the training in how to use it.
At the moment, this is simply not happening.
It is time for a root and branch review of the reasons behind delays between diagnosis and treatment.