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Urgent referrals for suspected cancer vary threefold among general practices

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e5195 (Published 31 July 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5195
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

The rate at which GPs refer patients for suspected cancer varies so widely that it indicates real differences in the standards of care being provided.

Some variation in referral rate would be expected because populations differ, but data published this week for individual practices by the National Cancer Intelligence Network shows that some GPs refer more than three times as many patients as others.1 Rates range from a low of under 830 in every 100 000 people a year to a high of over 2550. This is the first time such data have been made publicly available, enabling patients to compare the referral rate of every general practice in England.

Mick Peake, the network’s clinical lead, said, “The data are not easy to interpret, since we do …

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