Trends in lung cancer emergency presentation in England, 2006-2013: is there a pattern by general practice?
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BACKGROUND: Emergency presentations (EP) represent over a third of all lung cancer admissions in England. Such presentations usually reflect late stage disease and are associated with poor survival. General practitioners (GPs) act as gate-keepers to secondary care and so we sought to understand the association between GP practice characteristics and lung cancer EP. METHODS: Data on general practice characteristics were extracted for all practices in England from the Quality Outcomes Framework, the Health and Social Care Information Centre, the GP Patient Survey, the Cancer Commissioning Toolkit and the area deprivation score for each practice. After linking these data to lung cancer patient registrations in 2006-2013, we explored trends in three types of EP, patient-led, GP-led and 'other', by general practice characteristics and by socio-demographic characteristics of patients. RESULTS: Overall proportions of lung cancer EP decreased from 37.9% in 2006 to 34.3% in 2013. Proportions of GP-led EP nearly halved during this period, from 28.3 to 16.3%, whilst patient-led emergency presentations rose from 62.1 to 66.7%. When focusing on practice-specific levels of EP, 14% of general practices had higher than expected proportions of EP at least once in 2006-13, but there was no evidence of clustering of patients within practice, meaning that none of the practice characteristics examined explained differing proportions of EP by practice. CONCLUSION: We found that the high proportion of lung cancer EP is not the result of a few practices with very abnormal patterns of EP, but of a large number of practices susceptible to reaching high proportions of EP. This suggests a system-wide issue, rather than problems with specific practices. High proportions of lung cancer EP are mainly the result of patient-initiated attendances in A&E. Our results demonstrate that interventions to encourage patients not to bypass primary care must be system wide rather than targeted at specific practices.