If NHS treated patients like grown-ups, they could save money

King's College London
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Why do we have to be seen by a GP first?

In England, urgent suspected cancer cases must be referred by their GP to see a Consultant, wasting time.

Abroad, there is often no such barrier to a consultation and a patient book directly, so cutting out wasted waiting time.

Recently an international team – led by doctors from King’s College, London – looked at five year survival rates for lung cancer patients in UK, Sweden and Norway.  Long-term survival data showed Scandinavians likely to survive longer.

The report said all too often in this country, cancer is diagnosed later than it should be, but in Sweden and Norway, patients can book directly to see a specialist.

Abroad, I have often made an appointment to see a specialist directly.  Yet when I try to do the same in Britain,  a secretary will phone to say, “we haven’t received the referral from your GP”.  But my NHS GP has told me, “I don’t know anything about cancer.  You know more about cancer than I do”.  So why should I waste mine and their time?

Dr Mike Peake, a lung cancer specialist and one of the report’s authors, said “we don’t know exactly why there are these differences, but my feeling is that it is in large part down to delay in diagnosis.

“At one level this is to do with people not recognising their symptoms, feeling they should not bother their busy GP, or not wanting to be told off about smoking, but there are also doctors who dismiss a complaint as a simple cough.”

Cancer Research UK said it was working with the Department of Health and the NHS on an awareness and early diagnosis initiative:

  • “All too often in this country, cancer is diagnosed later than it should be.
  • “Although differences in treatment may play a role, spotting lung cancer early could make a real difference to survival rates.”

So perhaps if the NHS stopped acting as an agent of the Nanny-State, and let us take command of our bodies, we might save time, and from the NHS’s point – money.

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