Cancer Research UK and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have launched a new partnership to improve cancer diagnosis and care in general practice. 

A first-of-its-kind Clinical Lead for Cancer position has been created, funded by Cancer Research UK, to oversee a five-year partnership programme within the Royal College. Greg Rubin, Professor of General Practice and Primary Care at Durham University, has been appointed to the role, in which he will act as an advisor on issues affecting cancer in primary care, and one of Prof Rubin’s first tasks will be to oversee the development of a strategy to improve early diagnosis. 

As part of the partnership, the RCGP and Cancer Research UK will put together best-practice models and guidance for GPs, including learning kits and educating resources. Alongside this, the programme will seek to inform health commissioners about how to make the best decisions about pathways of cancer care, and GPs will also be encouraged to adopt models of participation for patients, relatives and carers.

The new partnership is "unique and important," said Sarah Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK. 

"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. By working together with the RCGP through this programme, we aim to develop ways to help doctors confidently diagnose more cancers at an earlier stage and, ultimately, save more lives," she said.

RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada is reported as saying that, as a GP himself, Prof Rubin understands the vital role which general practitioners play in identifying cancer in their 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," she said.

The cancer partnership is the first of a new set of Enduring Clinical Priorities for the RCGP - five-year programmes which will focus on conditions with a large impact on public health – and will run alongside a project of the College's Clinical Innovation and Research Centre (CIRC) to pilot RCGP accreditation of Significant Event Analyses of cancer diagnosis. 

Discussing these moves, the College has pointed out that cancer is the second most common cause of death in the UK, and that, "by 2020, it is expected that there will be a 50%-60% increase in the number of cancer patients on a GP's list."