Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer assessment in primary care: a qualitative study of GP views

Emerging evidence suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to an increase in avoidable cancer deaths as patient’s pathways to diagnosis and treatment have been affected.  This qualitative study interviewed GPs to understand their views on how COVID-19 is impacting the clinical assessment of possible cancer in primary care. Three main themes were identified, including 1) how changes in patient help-seeking behaviour might impact symptoms at presentation; 2) how remote consultations impact the management of patients with possible cancer symptoms; and 3) the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on triaging and referring patients with possible cancer. Some positive changes to practice were identified, however the GPs raised concerns about the adequacy of remote consultations for assessing symptoms. Some GPs reported delayed cancer diagnoses and uncertainty about how backlog in referrals would be managed. Overall, the results of this study indicate urgent action is needed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and ensure appropriate symptomatic assessment of patients with possible cancer now, and in the future. Read full text
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