Two-Week Urgent Referral Path Linked to Higher Cancer Survival Rates

A new study released by Cancer Research UK and funded by the National Institute for Health Research has added further evidence in support of the notion that delaying or misdiagnosing cases of cancer can adversely affect prospective survival rates and general health.

The study, published in October 2015 and since added to the British Medical Journal, lends further support to patients pursuing delayed or misdiagnosis of cancer compensation, by shedding further light on how such delays can be linked to patient mortality.

The recent study examined 215,284 English cancer patients, and focused on the work of researchers from King’s College London, who looked at the relationship in patient survival rates between practices that used the two-week urgent referral route for prospective cancer patients often, and those who did not. The results demonstrated a clear trend: practices that did not opt to use the urgent referral route incurred up to a 7% higher patient mortality rate than those that did so at the typical referral rate. The research clearly highlights the impact that utilising the urgent referral option – which was created in the early 2000s – has on saving lives.

Whilst the research will provide strong support for the use of the two week referral path by GP practices in cases of suspected cancer, encouraging more GPs to use the two week urgent referral path is of little use if the NHS Trust hospitals to which the patients are being referred are not seeing the patients within the stipulated two weeks. According to the latest statistics released by NHS England, between April and June of this year, 26,780 patients suspected of having cancer and urgently referred by their GP to see a specialist, were not seen by the NHS Trust to which they were referred within the two week recommended period.

Professor Henrik Moller, epidemiologist at King’s College London, issued the following statement in reference to the study:

“Increasing a GP’s cancer awareness and their likelihood of urgently referring cancer patients could help reduce deaths…if GP practices which use the two-week route rarely, were to use it more often, this could reduce deaths of cancer patients.”

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, added the following:

“This crucial evidence shows that the earlier a cancer patient is diagnosed the better the chances of survival. Earlier cancer can be treated more effectively with a wider range of treatment options. And tumours can progress if there’s a delay in time to diagnosis and starting treatment. It’s never been clearer that reducing late diagnosis saves lives and this research adds to our understanding of what can be done about it. Cancer Research UK is committed to investing in early diagnosis research to support GPs refer suspected cancer as early as practically possible.”

Jason Brady, specialist clinical negligence compensation solicitor at Blackwater Law, said:

“We know that early diagnosis and treatment of cancer is crucial and greatly increases a cancer patient’s chances of effective treatment and survival. GP practices not utilising the urgent two week cancer referral path are limiting their patients’ chances of surviving by potentially delaying the diagnosis of cancer and thus the effectiveness of any eventual treatment.

“The publication of this research should also be used as an opportunity to examine those NHS Trust hospitals which are failing to see patients that have been urgently referred by the GP within the two week period.

“Where delays in diagnosis or treatment have been unnecessary, this may be grounds for a claim for compensation, whether the delays were the fault of the GP practice or the hospital to which the patient was eventually referred.”

If you feel that the diagnosis or treatment of your or a family member’s cancer was delayed, it is recommended you speak to a specialist clinical negligence solicitor at Blackwater Law.

Call 0800 083 5500 for free initial advice on whether you may be entitled to claim compensation for your pain, suffering and losses relating to the delay in treatment.