Northern Ireland

One in five NI cancer diagnoses via emergency routes

Hospital ward Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The research found a higher proportion of emergency presentations in deprived areas and among older people.

A fifth of cancer patients in Northern Ireland received their diagnosis through an emergency route, according to a major research report.

Of more than 45,000 people diagnosed from 2012 to 2016, one-fifth were diagnosed this way.

They had what's described as a "poor net survival" at three years of 23%.

The report, 'Pathways to Cancer Diagnosis', was compiled by Queen's University and the Health and Social Care Business Organisation.

An emergency presentation means a patient came in via an emergency department, an emergency GP referral, transfer emergency consultant outpatient referral or emergency admission.

It also showed the number of emergency presentations was higher in deprived areas and among older patients.

The report monitored the differences in patient experience and built up a picture of the different ways cancer patients are diagnosed.

It used data from a number of health service organisations and the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry.

Of 46,068 cancer patients, apart from those with non-melanoma skin cancer, red flag and routine GP routes accounted for 28% and 21% of diagnoses, with each route having a three-year net survival of 72% and 71%.

The proportion of patients diagnosed through the red flag route increased from around 26% in 2012 to just below 31% in 2015.

The proportions of patients diagnosed via screening (6%) and emergency presentation route to diagnosis (20%) in NI were very similar to England.

However, compared to England, NI has greater proportions of patients diagnosed via outpatient and inpatient elective routes and smaller proportions of red flag and routine GP routes.

Dr Finian Bannon, Principal Investigator on the Queen's University team, said: "The findings of the study will help improve patient outcomes by increasing our understanding of how cancer services are delivered, and how services can be improved."

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