Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

GPs are under pressure not to refer cancer suspects to hospitals

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Yesterday I re-tweeted about a letter to the Telegraph from Peter Mahaffey, a hospital specialist. He’s concerned about the report in the Telegraph that “half of GPs are too slow in spotting cancer”. Too many cancers are going undetected for too long so his response is really quite depressing. Read what he had to say below and see what you think:

SIR – You report (December 7) that “half of GPs are too slow in spotting cancer”. As a specialist who has been receiving referrals from family doctors for 20 years, I have not noticed a decline in GPs’ caring or clinical skills. What, however, is obvious to most consultants is the increasing pressure on GPs not to refer their patients to hospital.

This is the inevitable consequence of asking primary-care doctors to manage their own constrained budget allocations.

It is unacceptable for the Health Secretary to condemn a situation which leads directly from a fundamental change in NHS policy – implemented after his shadow government promised no more major NHS structural changes if elected.

In almost all other Western countries, secondary care institutions are symbols of pride with their own budgets, not completely dependent on funding from primary care.

Cancer care outcomes will decline further until GPs can make medical decisions on the merit of the case and there is a halt to the pillorying of hospitals as the cause of the NHS’s financial ills.

Peter Mahaffey FRCS
Cardington, Bedfordshire


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