Journal scan

Lack of empathy by GPs could delay cancer diagnosis

Older people with cancer symptoms are more likely to seek advice if their GP is a good listener, and doctors need to improve this skill, a study suggests.

Patients will wait for an appointment to get a GP with good listening skills, according to a study which found that potential cancer patients could experience delays in diagnosis.

Researchers from University College London and the University of Surrey conducted a UK-wide online survey of 600 people aged 50 or over.

The aim was to investigate the populations consultation preferences when presented with a potential cancer symptom, and whether these are mediated by variable levels of cancer risk.

Willing to wait

Participants expressed preferences for doctors with better listening skills, the ability to see a GP of their choice, and shorter waiting times.

These findings were the same across three identified risk conditions high, low, or unknown and demographic groups.

The team also discovered that

...

Patients will wait for an appointment to get a GP with good listening skills, according to a study which found that potential cancer patients could experience delays in diagnosis.

empathy
Older people want their GP to be a good listener. Picture: iStock

Researchers from University College London and the University of Surrey conducted a UK-wide online survey of 600 people aged 50 or over.

The aim was to investigate the population’s consultation preferences when presented with a potential cancer symptom, and whether these are mediated by variable levels of cancer risk.

Willing to wait

Participants expressed preferences for doctors with better listening skills, the ability to see a GP of their choice, and shorter waiting times.

These findings were the same across three identified risk conditions – high, low, or unknown – and demographic groups.

The team also discovered that people were willing to wait an extra 3.5 weeks for an appointment with a doctor with listening skills that they rated as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ and an extra week for an appointment with a GP of their choice.

Writing in the British Journal of General Practice, lead author Katrina Whitaker said: ‘Improving doctors’ communication skills may in the longer term encourage people to seek prompt medical help when they experience a cancer symptom.’


Whitaker K et al (2017), Patients’ preferences for GP consultation for perceived cancer risk in primary care: a discrete choice experiment. British Journal of General Practice. doi.org/10.3399/bjgp17X690905

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs