Northern Ireland

Pressures on GPs 'affecting cancer prevention work'

Cancer patient on drip
Image caption The UU report said many cases of cancer could be prevented with effective delivery of information

Increasing work pressures on doctors' surgeries are preventing effective delivery of cancer prevention information, a report has claimed.

Annually in Northern Ireland, 11,200 people develop cancer yet many cases could be prevented, the University of Ulster report said.

Researchers said health professionals lacked time to deliver prevention information effectively.

The findings will be revealed later at a meeting at Stormont.

The aim of the study was to investigate the current and potential role of the GP and the primary care nurse in the prevention of cancer through health promotion strategies.

Although GPs and nurses in GP surgeries are the best placed health professionals to deliver cancer prevention information in primary care, they lack time and resources to do so effectively, the report said.

More comfortable

The report, compiled by a research team at the University of Ulster (UU) and funded by Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, concluded that consideration should be given to providing primary care nurses with a more formal cancer prevention role.

It said primary care nurses often had a relationship with patients different to the GP-patient relationship, with some patients perceived to be more comfortable in conversations with nurses.

The report said the link between cancer and the key risk factors of alcohol consumption, obesity, diet and physical activity were generally only discussed with patients when they attended a GP surgery with a related health problem.

Professor Hugh McKenna, from the University of Ulster, said: "GPs and practice nurses are extremely busy people. This means that once they deal with the patient's presenting symptoms they have limited time to undertake health promotion activities relating to cancer prevention.

"This is unfortunate because they are held in very high regard by communities and there is the probability that their advice on lifestyle issues such as diet, alcohol, exercise, and smoking would be heeded by patients and families."

A total of 1,249 questionnaires were sent to GPs and questionnaires were sent to primary care nurses.

One-to-one interviews were carried out with 14 GPs and 14 primary care nurses.