Background Lower use of endoscopies and urgent referrals for suspected cancer has been linked to poorer outcomes for patients with cancer; it is important to examine potential predictors of variable use. Aim To examine the associations between general practice measures of patient experience and practice use of endoscopies or urgent referrals for suspected cancer. Design and setting Cross-sectional ecological analysis in English general practices. Method Data were taken from the GP Patient Survey and the Cancer Services Public Health Profiles. After adjustment for practice population characteristics, practice-level associations were examined between the use of endoscopy and urgent referrals for suspected cancer, and the ability to book an appointment (used as proxy for ease of access), the ability to see a preferred doctor (used as proxy for relational continuity), and doctor/nurse communication skills. Results Taking into account practice scores for the ability to book an appointment, practices rated higher for the proxy measure of relational continuity used urgent referrals and endoscopies less often (for example, 30% lower urgent referral and 15% lower gastroscopy rates between practices in the 90th/10th centiles, respectively). In contrast, practices rated higher for doctor communication skills used urgent referrals and endoscopies more often (for example, 26% higher urgent referral and 17% higher gastroscopy rates between practices in the 90th/10th centiles, respectively). Patients with cancer in practices that were rated higher for doctor communication skills were less likely to be diagnosed as emergencies (1.7% lower between practices in the 90th than in the 10th centile). Conclusion Practices where patients rated doctor communication highly were more likely to investigate and refer patients urgently but, in contrast, practices where patients could see their preferred doctor more readily were less likely to do so. This article discusses the possible implications of these findings for clinical practice.
- Primary care