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GPs “botching” cancer treatments, audits find

14 July 2008

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Half of all skin cancers operated on by family doctors were removed incompletely, according to a series of studies.

Badly removed tumours often mean the cancer is likely to recur. This failure could have deadly consequences when dealing with the aggressive form of skin cancer known as melanoma. Failure to remove the cancer in this instance could lead to a spread of the disease, and possibly death.

The series of audits has been taken in primary care trusts throughout the country to assess the effectiveness of GPs undertaking minor surgery. The findings were presented at a meeting of the Association of Dermatologists in Liverpool.

An audit of Derbyshire Royal Infirmary found 31% of skin cancer samples removed by GPs were incomplete, while in Sussex, 14% were inappropriately treated

Dr David Shuttleworth, clinical vice-president of the British Association of Dermatologists, told the Times newspaper: “The issue is one of patient safety. This is not a trade war.

“We have no problem with GPs treating skin cancers, so long as they produce results as good as hospital consultants. But these studies show that a significant number are not very competent.

“GPs say they are fine. But they don’t all collect their evidence, they don’t measure results and they don’t count the times they go wrong. The surveys show they are not good at diagnosis, and that they operate on things they don’t understand.”

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Association of Dermatologists

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