Believe it or not, this still happens
Currently the papers have reports that cancer patients are STILL waiting far too long for tests.
Recently, when I complained to my local hospital that I had had to wait three months for tests, I discovered that my GP had ‘forgotten’ to mention that the tests were for possible cancer recurrence – therefore I should have had them within two weeks.
Stories in the press say one in four cancer patients are being sent away by their GPs when they ask for tests – yet Ministers dare blame us for seeking tests too late. Forgive me if I blow up with fury.
The Telegraph reports “tens of thousands of patients have to make repeated trips to their doctors before being given correct diagnosis”. Apparently we are sent home and told there is nothing wrong, our symptoms aren’t life-threatening, it’s all in our imagination, etc. etc.
So how do researchers come to these conclusions?
- The Rarer Cancers Foundation has found that a quarter of patients were only diagnosed after the disease had spread to other organs.
- Numerous reports state that almost quarter of all cancers were NOT picked up until symptoms were so severe that patients had landed up in A & E.
- National Cancer Intelligence Network said 23% of all cancer cases went undetected until emergency admission stage.
And the older you get, the less likely you are to have prompt referrals.
So – what to can you do?
If you are waiting for tests, and you suspect that ‘possibly – but you hope not’ this might have something to do with cancer, phone and ask WHEN AM I GOING TO BE SEEN?
If given the usual pathetic excuses about no appointments available, put phone down, then phone the hospital unit and ask sweetly “I don’t suppose you have a cancellation for today/tomorrow/this week?” Sure as eggs is eggs, that works almost every time.
And don’t forget by being persistent you will get where you want – which is to be told you are ‘all clear’. And don’t think you are taking the place of someone else – when I was asked to the opening of the Royal Marsden Hospital’s Rapid Diagnosis unit we were told patients would be seen within two weeks.
Asking what plans the hospital had for bringing this in line with Europe – where many countries say 3 – 5 days maximum wait, I was slapped down by a hospital Council member, who said “two weeks is quite good enough”.
Later I overheard her say to another Council member, “I was a nervous wreck when I thought I had a lump – so pulled every string and got seen the next day – but I didn’t sleep all night”. Well, don’t wait for 14 sleepless nights – DEMAND an earlier appointment – if she can be given one, so can ordinary patients.
And if you are in touch with your local PCT, ask when are GPs to be given more QOFs to deal with cancer patients? Sadly GPs currently only receive six QOFs for cancer (units that make up payments) – when other diseases merit over 90 – so this doesn’t make GPs inclined to spend time ringing round to get earlier appointments.
As Andrew Wilson of the Rarer Cancers Foundation says, “if patients are going to have the best chance of beating cancer they they need to be diagnosed as early as possible”.
So lift up the phone – and good luck!