MORE than two in five patients diagnosed with cancer in Swindon required repeat visits to their GP before being sent for tests, figures reveal.

The latest NHS National Cancer Patient Experience Survey, completed by 347 people with cancer in the Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group area, found dozens saw a family doctor at least twice before being referred for tests in 2018.

Of 233 patients who saw their GP with symptoms, 17 made five or more visits before they were eventually sent to hospital for further investigation.

Another 31 saw their GP three or four times, while 49 visited twice.

Overall, 42 per cent required repeat visits before being sent for tests.

A spokesperson for the Swindon CCG said: “Many types of cancer often produce symptoms similar to those associated with other healthcare conditions, which is why it is not uncommon for many patients – around 77 per cent, according to the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey – to visit their GP on more than one occasion.

“However, as soon as a clinician believes a person could have cancer, it is important for the patient to be immediately referred to hospital for further investigations and, in Swindon over the last 12 months, more than 93 per cent of suspected-cancer patients were seen within two weeks of a referral being made.”

NHS England carried out the annual survey and attracted nearly 74,000 responses across the country.

Asked to rate their care on a scale from zero, very poor, to 10, very good, Swindon respondents gave an average score of 8.6 – lower than the previous year's 8.7.

This compared to an 8.8 average rating for cancer care across England.

Ruth May, NHS England's chief nurse, said: "Patients' satisfaction with their cancer care remains at a record high with nine out of 10 patients happy with the care and support they've received, which is testament to the hard work and compassion of NHS staff.

"This is despite record numbers getting checked for cancer and surviving it, with 2.2 million getting checked for cancer last year.

"The NHS Long Term Plan will ensure that even more people receive earlier cancer checks alongside the best possible care and lifesaving new treatments."

Dr Richard Roope, clinical lead for cancer for the Royal College of GPs, said that despite "increased pressures" facing GPs, emergency presentations of cancer are at an all-time low.

He added: "It is notoriously difficult to diagnose many cancers in primary care. Particularly in the early stages of the disease, often there are either no symptoms or they might be vague and indicative of other, more common conditions.

"GPs and our teams also need to be mindful of onward pressures in secondary care, and often come in for criticism for over-referral, as well as not referring enough.

"The most effective way to address this is to give GPs and our teams in primary care better access to the appropriate diagnostic tools in the community, and the training to use them."