GPs have been getting increasingly concerned that they cannot get the necessary cancer care for patients during the crisis, according to a new survey.
More than half said they were “highly concerned” that patients with suspected cancer could not get the investigation and are they needed in the survey of more than a thousand doctors. Nearly half – 48% – were also concerned about patients with diagnosed cancer.
Doctors reported major difficulties in getting referrals to secondary care – with 59% reporting it being “much” harder than last year. The survey, by medeConnect, found that doctors reported spending two-thirds of their time on telephone triage during April. On average doctors worked 30 hours a week.
On average, some 28% of this triage time was spent talking to patients with possible Covid-19 infection. Doctors said they was a notable decline in patients presenting with new conditions. Some 62% said this was “much lower” than a year ago.
One doctor said: “I have seen a few cases of patients not attending hospital for injuries that needed immediate treatment, or refusing referral to hospital for tests or treatment (e.g. of worsening angina) due to fears of catching Covid-19 in hospital, which makes me feel very concerned about the long term impact on the crisis on chronic disease management & cancer diagnosis.”
The efforts of primary care were recognised last night when NHS England primary care director Dr Nikki Kanani attended the annual government press briefing. Dr Kanani stressed that services would remain open during the coming bank holiday weekend, praising “hard work” and “dedication” from teams.
Ruth Rankine, director of the PCN Network at the NHS Confederation, said: “We have seen a rapid transformation across these services, with staff adapting to new ways of working and delivering care to patients that we must build on as the NHS resets after COVID-19. However, we need to see this welcome recognition backed up by greater support from Government for primary care services, including ensuring they have adequate supply to personal protective equipment and easy access to testing. This is the NHS, not the COVID Health Service, and it is important that if you are unwell you seek treatment.”