Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Monday 29 June 2009

A Cancer Specialist Within Two Weeks?

Let's give a hearty two-and-a-half cheers for the guarantee of seeing a cancer specialist within two weeks - and a trip to a private consultant if the NHS can't do it.

Except that the 'pathways' in current use by GPs - accessible via NHS Direct - already state that a patient suspected of having cancer should be seen within 2 weeks. Yet again, New Labour make a song and dance about an 'initiative' that's already happening.

Ah, you may say, but now it's a concrete guarantee - infallible, surely? Well, no, actually, because you have to be 'suspected' of having cancer before they let you in through the gates, and that means having a GP who can spot the signs.

Don't get me wrong - there are many excellent GPs out there, my own included. Unfortunately every system has its flaws. As regular readers will know, members of my family have had less than ideal treatment in the past. The scenario goes something like this.

You visit your GP with a problem - or even just for a check-up - and he/she puts you on statins/HRT/steroids (despite your misgivings), citing endless studies (but not PCT targets). Your symptoms worsen but your GP puts it down to side-effects and changes the dosage/brand; this can go on for months.

You repeatedly ask for cancer tests, but are told firmly that it won't be cancer - you're not obese/sedentary/a drinker or smoker (and your GP has a shaky grasp of probability - he/she tells you that if 97% of sufferers are obese, your chances of having cancer are 3%).

Eventually you find another GP who agrees to do the test - and you win first prize: an instant trip to Oncology with added chemo and an emergency operation thrown in. And here's the kicker; you still fall within the 2-week rule because the first GP never 'suspected' it was cancer.


  1. It is one thing to be seen by a consultant, however, getting the actual treatment is another thing entirely, especially if they are not entirely sure of what the problem is. You may then have to wait many months or more before anything much actually happens.

  2. Very true, Demetrius, once they've ticked the 'meet target' box on your records, it's back to the waiting game - unless they've already delayed so long you need immediate life-saving treatment and are bumped to the head of the queue (thereby increasing everyone else's waiting time, of course).


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