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Durham University News

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Durham professor appointed as key adviser on cancer diagnosis

(12 April 2012)

Durham University's Professor Greg Rubin has been appointed as the first ever Clinical Lead for Cancer for the Royal College of General Practitioners and Cancer Research UK.

Professor Rubin will lead the new five-year clinical partnership between the organisations focusing on cancer in primary care which will aim to inform, improve and innovate cancer care in GP surgeries. The role will be in addition to his post in the School of Medicine and Health at Durham University.

The Clinical Lead for Cancer position is the first of its kind, and is being funded by Cancer Research UK in recognition of the vital role GPs play both in early diagnosis of cancer, and throughout a patient's treatment within the health system.

Professor Rubin, who is a professor of general practice and primary care at Durham University, will be working as an adviser to Cancer Research UK on issues affecting cancer in primary care.

Professor Greg Rubin said: "I'm delighted to have been chosen to lead this important initiative on behalf of the Royal College of GPs and Cancer Research UK. Making cancer its first enduring priority sends a clear signal of the College's commitment to high quality care in this field.

"In the past few years, we have come to understand just how important a part GPs play in the diagnosis as well as the after-care of patients with cancer.  I will be working with the NHS, the cancer charities and others so that the Royal College of GPs can add value to the good work that is already being done."

Professor Rubin already heads up the National Audit of Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care which found that three quarters of patients with symptoms of cancer in England are assessed, investigated and referred within a month of presenting to their GP.

The audit also looked at use of investigations, and found that some cancer patients, including those with brain, ovary, pancreas, liver and kidney cancer, were more likely to have benefited from better primary care access to diagnostic tests such as chest X-rays, non-obstetric ultrasounds, and brain MRIs.

Cancer is the first of the Royal College of GPs' new 'enduring priorities' - a five-year programme that focuses on conditions with a large impact on public health and public health policy. The College will work in close partnership with Cancer Research UK and with other key stakeholders for the duration of the programme, which also aims to:

  • Develop and implement a strategy focusing initially on improving early diagnosis of cancer in primary care;
  • Identify areas for improvement in cancer diagnosis and care in general practice and develop best practice models and guidance supported by learning toolkits and educational resources;
  • Assess and promote proven clinical pathways of care in general practice to support and inform commissioners;
  • Embed improvements in general practice via the GP curriculum, where appropriate, as well as using GP networks to promote best practice and learning.

In addition, the College and Cancer Research UK will encourage the full engagement of patients, relatives and carers in the process of care by promoting models of participation.

Chair of the Royal College of GPs, Dr Clare Gerada, said: "I want to congratulate Greg, and thank him for taking on this challenging and important role. His knowledge of cancer in primary care is second-to-none, evidenced by the brilliant audit into cancer diagnosis in primary care, launched at the College last year. 

"As a GP, Greg understands the vital role we play in identifying cancer in our patients and seeing them through treatment. His work, in partnership with Cancer Research UK, will help us help GPs build upon their existing skills to diagnose cancer earlier and provide the best possible quality of cancer care to our patients when they need it the most."

Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said: "We're delighted to be a part of this unique and important partnership and congratulate Greg on his appointment. 

"The GP is the first port of call for the majority of patients with symptoms that could be cancer, which highlights the vital role GPs play in cancer diagnosis.  Cancer Research UK is committed to saving more lives from cancer, and ensuring the disease is caught as early as possible is a priority to achieve this. By working together with the Royal College of GPs, through this programme, we aim to develop ways to help doctors confidently diagnose more cancers at an earlier stage and ultimately save more lives."

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