New tool for GPs to tackle late cancer diagnosis

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New tool for GPs to tackle late cancer diagnosis

Thursday 18 July 2019

A new patient-recommended tool for GPs is being launched across England in a bid to catch cancers sooner.

Known as GatewayC, the innovative online training tool has already shown promising early signs of supporting earlier cancer diagnosis. Designed to support GPs and other primary care staff in identifying which patients need urgent investigation by a specialist, users of GatewayC have already reported taking action, with some patients being called for reassessment or being referred more quickly as a result of the training.

With patients three times more likely to survive cancer if diagnosed at an early stage, GPs play a critical role in detecting cancer, often as the first port of call for patients.

Despite this, studies report that a quarter of cancer patients visit their GP three or more times before being sent to hospital for a diagnosis to be made*. Only 50% of patients are diagnosed at an early stage, when more treatment options are available**.

Saeed Shakibai was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2009, after warning signs were missed several times over a 12 month period. Saeed is one of many patients that has fed into the new training tool, along with GPs and cancer specialists, to minimise the chances of the same thing happening to others. He said:

“Even though a cancer diagnosis is very difficult to swallow, finding it early is crucial. GPs do a very difficult job and we need to give them the right tools. I’m confident that GatewayC will support GPs in spotting the signs of cancer early – if my GP had seen this, I know my cancer would not have been missed.”

From this summer, the new early diagnosis training tool will be available to every GP and primary care professional across the country free of charge, through funding from Health Education England (HEE) – the body responsible for the education and training of NHS staff.

Laura Roberts, Director of Skills, Development and Participation, Health Education England, said:

“Cancer survival is the best it has ever been, with thousands more people now surviving cancer every year. The NHS Long Term Plan makes clear, however, that one of the most important actions the NHS can take to further improve survival is earlier diagnosis.
‘We are very pleased to be working with GatewayC on the development and rollout of this new tool and believe it will help to support GPs and primary care staff to develop their skills and knowledge in this crucial area and help to improve cancer survival.”

Developed and hosted at The Christie, an NHS specialist cancer hospital, GatewayC is different from usual training tools and online materials. Training focuses on clinical decision making, using realistic videos of patients and doctors (both played by actors) based on the experiences of real patients, both good and bad. This is then combined with expert input from GPs, cancer specialists and organisations including Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Dr Catherine Heaven, GatewayC Programme Director and Associate Director of Education at The Christie School of Oncology, said:

“Primary care’s crucial role in the early detection of cancer has been clearly set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, and increasing early diagnosis will make a real difference to our patients. GatewayC was developed to empower primary care staff with good-quality, evidence-based, and behaviour-changing education, in a form they can easily access. We are delighted that Health Education England has recognised GatewayC as part of the solution in changing cancer outcomes by funding the tool for every cancer professional across NHS England.”

The tool has also been given the stamp of approval from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), the UK professional body of family doctors, and has backing from Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK Senior Clinical Advisor for Primary Care, said:

“GPs have done fantastic work in managing other chronic health conditions for patients, resulting in more of the population living longer; sadly therefore, more are also developing cancer. Although UK cancer survival is at an all-time high, it is critical that the primary care workforce are armed with the tools they need to support the NHS’s target to diagnose 75% of cancers at an early stage by 2028.


GatewayC is an exciting resource providing busy GPs with accessible education to support their clinical decisions allowing timely investigation and referral of those patients who have symptoms that could be caused by an early cancer. It is a useful addition to the toolbox for GPs, and Cancer Research UK looks forward to working with primary care teams on this and other innovations to support front line clinical staff across the country in early diagnosis of cancer. “

Dr Anthony Cunliffe, Macmillan Cancer Support’s National Lead GP Adviser, said:

“Early diagnosis can make a difference to someone’s survival chances, treatment options and quality of life. Having access to educational tools such as GatewayC is essential to help GPs to diagnose people earlier and support people living with cancer to live well as well as live longer.”

More than 2,000 users are already using the tool ahead of an England-wide rollout. Early reports have shown increased confidence from clinical staff in deciding which patients need an urgent referral to hospital with a suspected cancer diagnosis***. Improvements have also been reported in the recording of potential cancer symptoms and in communicating more effectively with patients that are being sent for tests.

The tool will be available across the country to all primary care staff from August 2019.

For more information contact: Anna Perkins, GatewayC Marketing and Engagement Manager at

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* Figures taken from the National Cancer Diagnosis Audit, 2014.

** Figures taken from the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service.

*** Figures taken from GatewayC pilot study, results published November 2017.