How Cancer Research UK is working with GPs to improve early diagnosis

Rebecca Banks: “Spotting cancer earlier could save 5,000 lives a year”

Content on this post is produced by Cancer Research UK

Rebecca Banks, senior primary care engagement manager at Cancer Research UK, on the charity’s ambitious goals for the next 12 months and current recruitment opportunities within her team. Photograph: @CR_UK

Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated towards saving lives, and the second biggest funder of cancer research worldwide. In the last 40 years, we’ve helped double the cancer survival rate so that two in four people now survive their disease. But this is just the beginning. We have now set ourselves a target that within 20 years, three in four people will beat cancer.

We will only achieve this by working in partnership with healthcare professionals. Primary care provides the first point of contact for nine out of 10 patients in the healthcare system. It is in primary care that potential cancer symptoms are first assessed and it is therefore essential that we give GPs and the primary care community the support they need to help spot cancer earlier.

Rebecca Banks, the senior primary care engagement manager at Cancer Research UK (CRUK), tells us about how the charity is working with the primary care community to help increase the number of people who survive their cancer.

Much of CRUK’s work involves researching new, more effective treatments that will become the therapies of the future,” she says. “We also fund research into cancer awareness, prevention and early diagnosis and use all of this information to inform the public and influence cancer policy and clinical practice for patients’ benefit. Our facilitator programme takes this research and translates it into practice to make a positive impact on people’s lives immediately, in local areas.

Even though cancer touches each and every one of us, the average GP sees fewer than eight cancer cases a year. And spotting the earliest signs of cancer is not always easy, there are more than 200 types of cancer and symptoms can be vague. Spotting cancer earlier could save 5,000 lives a year, so if we are to save lives now, then supporting doctors to improve early diagnosis is key.”

We are committed to working with the NHS to support GPs and other primary care health professionals to do this,” says Banks. “We work hard to provide the latest information, practical tools and education to help these key frontline professionals to identify the earliest signs of cancer. The earlier a cancer is detected, the better the chance a person has of beating their disease.”

Banks’ team are embarking on ambitious plans to expand the programme across the UK.

The aim is that by 2018, we’ll have CRUK facilitators in every region across the country,” she explains. “Each facilitator will visit GP practices in their area and work in partnership with local NHS professionals to improve cancer prevention, early diagnosis and survival. Essentially they will be catalysts for change.”

Ideal candidates will have firsthand experience of the challenges facing primary care and relish working with others to make a difference. They thrive on knowing that no two work days are ever the same. Facilitators also need to build and maintain successful relationships. It is through mutual trust and understanding that we will be able to help GPs and their practice in their work, diagnosing cancer earlier and giving more people, more time with their families. Without this work we will not be able to succeed in our goal of beating cancer.”

This large team of dedicated CRUK facilitators will not just support GPs and practice staff, they will also provide a valuable feedback network to the charity’s research arm, allowing us to respond to emerging healthcare needs.

Banks says: “Already, feedback from our facilitators has led to CRUK working on resources that will help local areas increase their bowel screening uptake, an important element in the early diagnosis of bowel cancer. We heard what the need was and have responded on this.”

4 thoughts on “How Cancer Research UK is working with GPs to improve early diagnosis”

Have your say! Share your views