Health group calls for Hackney GPs to improve cancer diagnoses

A health group has accused some doctors of not taking patients’ concerns seriously in a campaign to improve cancer diagnoses in Hackney.

Social Action for Health (SAfH) called on residents this week to help them discover the reasons behind late cancer diagnoses in the borough by joining a new theatre project.

Campaigners say many cases of cancer in Hackney are detected when the disease is more advanced and treatments are less effective - increasing the risk of death.

The cancer mortality rate in Hackney is roughly 175 per 100,000 people, which is slightly above the London average of 170 people per 100,000.

Elizabeth Bayliss, executive director of SAfH, said: “We don’t think this is only because local people go to their doctors too late, but that doctors are not following up when people do express a concern.”

SAFH asked patients to share their stories of cancer diagnosis at a theatre workshop on Tuesday morning (February 22).

“We want to improve the communication between local people and their doctors, and we are using interactive theatre techniques to explore this. We will then feed the learning we do to health professionals so that fewer people needlessly lose their lives to cancer in future,” said Elizabeth.

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A spokeswoman for NHS City and Hackney PCT said: “Late diagnosis is a key contributor to the relatively low cancer survival rates in East London.

“A number of factors may delay the detection and diagnosis of cancer. Often individuals delay going to see their GP to get their symptoms checked out, perhaps because they don’t recognise that the symptoms are potentially serious, or because they fear being confronted with a diagnosis and undergoing treatment. Nationally, there is some evidence that GPs can improve their detection skills, and thereby refer patients for treatment more promptly.”

She said the PCT was working to improve survival rates by raising awareness of symptoms and screening programmes and supporting GPs to refer cancer symptoms properly.

“NHS City and Hackney is keen to work with Social Action for Health to understand the outcomes of these workshops and people’s local experiences.”