Worrying cancer statistics show real need for GPs to use technology to clear backlogs

Medloop’s clinical advisor discusses ways for GPs to address the growing patient backlog

Almost half of the people with potential cancer symptoms avoided contacting their GP, a report from Cardiff University and Cancer Research UK has found.

The report found that thousands of people with symptoms including coughing up blood and changes in moles did not want to be ‘seen as a nuisance’ by their GP practice or risked catching Covid-19.

The findings mean that potentially tens of thousands of people in the UK will have delayed a cancer diagnosis and early treatment.

The research discovered that of 3025 patients, 45 per cent did not seek help when their symptoms first presented.

 

These include:

31 per cent who coughed up blood

41 per cent who found a lump or swelling

59 per cent with a mole which had changed in appearance.

 

Reasons given include patients not wanting to waste their doctor’s time, not wanting to be seen to be making a fuss and ‘worried about being a drain on resources,’ and those worried about catching covid-19 from face-to-face appointments.

The findings show a real need for primary care to find more efficient ways of working in order to combat backlogs, said GP Dr Jay Verma.

“As GPs our role is to address concerns of patients and start the process of diagnosis and treatment for those who come to us with serious conditions – whether or not we are in a pandemic,” he said.

“Yes we’ve had a lot to do with the ongoing vaccination drives but Covid-19 is not the only game in town. Cancer doesn’t care about a pandemic, nor does asthma or diabetes or learning disabilities and it’s so important patients know we are still here for them.” 

Dr Verma said he believed that primary care needed to make greater use of technology if it was to develop more efficient ways of working.

“We have seen the use of ‘digital first’ in primary care, and how telephone and video consultations and booking appointments on phones have been very helpful in limiting the need for face-to-face contact to avoid virus transmission. But this really is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is available,” he added.

“Within my practice, we have been completing reviews for our patients who have asthma, diabetes as well as other LTCs. Patients with Long Term Conditions have every right to have a review of their condition and not keeping up to date with your patient population carries the real risk of complications and a decline in their health.

“By using Medloop’s Patient Management Optimiser and working with the Medloop nurse we have been able to contact our patient population with asthma directly and use text message links and secure online surveys to determine a priority list for those who need to have their treatment and medication reviewed by a health care professional.

“There’s no need for everyone to have face to face appointments, it relieves our clerical staff of an administrative burden and importantly it allows our patients to fill in the survey when they have time instead of hanging around in a waiting room.”

Medloop’s PMO has been tested in a number of practices around England and both GPs and patients have found it to be a positive addition to primary care services.

“87% of our patients with asthma said they wanted to use Medloop to carry out their reviews in the future,” added Dr Verma.

“With the direction of travel for primary care focused on digital-first, I believe that many patients and practices will benefit from this approach.”

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