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Posted on 20th September 2017

UK Doctors Fail To Refer Patients For Cancer Scans Due To Budget Cuts

A study shows doctors in the UK are failing to send their patients for lifesaving scans because they fear being told off for spending too much money.

A team from the University of Birmingham questioned 18 GPs and 12 practice chiefs about referrals for suspected bowel cancer. The team found that doctors can be reluctant to send patients for scans due to monetary reasons even if they have symptoms. Doctors fear criticism from healthcare commissioners.

Bowel cancer affects around 41,260 patients each year in the UK and early diagnosis of the condition can improve the chances of survival for the patient.

The leader of the study, Elaine Kidney said “concerns about over-referral were linked to financial pressures and perceived criticism by healthcare commissioners” She stated that one doctor told the researchers “The emphasis has moved from benefits and quality of care more towards ‘is it within our financial means?”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard of the Royal College of General Practitioners said “doctors do an excellent job” with referrals. She however added “We face considerable pressure not to refer patients to secondary care, so it’s unsurprising we are cautious”

Cancer Research UK representative Sara Hiom commented “New government guidelines mean GPs should refer more people with suspicious symptoms than ever before. This is because people want tests even if there’s only a slight suspicion of cancer and because diagnosing the disease earlier saves lives.”


Failure to refer suspected cancer sufferers for potentially lifesaving scans will inevitably lead to a delay treatment being started. Any delay can significantly affect the effectiveness or the outcome for the patient.

If you or a loved one has experienced a delay in receiving treatment and that delay has resulted in further injury or the condition to get worse, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

Contact us on 0330 355 9210 or for a free claim assessment.