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This article is from the WebMD News Archive

Lack of GP appointments 'delay diagnosis'

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Keith David Barnard

19th February 2013 - A shortage of GP appointments could be a key reason for many people failing to have worrying medical symptoms checked.

A survey of more than 2,000 adults for Cancer Research UK has found more than a third of people, 39%, say difficulty getting an appointment could put them off going to the doctor about a symptom they think could be serious.

The findings are another factor around serious symptoms not being looked at soon enough. Last month a study found people in the UK were more likely to be embarrassed or worried about what the doctor might find than people in other countries.

NHS awareness campaigns have stressed the importance of putting embarrassment aside and getting symptoms checked for conditions like cervical cancer and bowel cancer.

Delays in seeing the doctor

Every two years, Cancer Research UK gauges people's knowledge of signs and symptoms of cancer and what might put them off going to the doctor.

The perception that appointments are hard to book is up from 36.5% in 2010 to 39% now.

Fewer people said they'd be too scared or embarrassed to see the doctor or would be worried about what the doctor might find.

People were also less likely to worry they might be wasting the doctor's time.

'Real progress'

In a statement, Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK director of early diagnosis says: "The fact people now appear to be less scared, embarrassed or worried about what the doctor might find and more knowledgeable about cancer symptoms suggests real progress in our fight to increase early diagnosis of cancer and prevent thousands of avoidable deaths.

"Although these results suggest a shift away from emotional barriers to visiting the GP, it’s concerning to think that something as simple as making a doctor’s appointment could be putting people off seeking help for a serious symptom."

Cancer Research UK says more work is needed to find out why people believe appointments are hard to come by, such as wanting to see the same GP, inconvenient appointment times or a complicated booking system.

Reviewed on February 19, 2013

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