Implementing the 2-week wait rule for cancer referral in the UK: general practitioners' views and practices

Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2004 Mar;13(1):82-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2354.2004.00447.x.


The 2-week wait rule for cancer referrals became effective in December 2000 for all cancers treated by the National Health Service in the UK. Attainment of this target depends initially on appropriate and timely referral by general practitioners (GPs). General practitioners' views and referral practices under the 2-week wait rule were examined based on a postal survey of 508 GPs in an inner London area (65% response). Data on mode of referral indicated that 90% of GPs used the urgent suspected cancer form, although 38% also sent a letter with further information. General practitioners generally regarded the 2-week wait rule as working well in terms of improving patients' initial access, and 50% thought communication with the hospital had improved. However, 46% expressed some concerns, including problems arising from the different sets of forms required by local cancer networks, the lack of a dedicated referral form for breast cancer, and feelings of a loss of autonomy. General practitioners also acknowledged an element of over-referral under this rule due to the effects of clinical uncertainty and patient pressure and their concerns about increased waiting times for non-target referrals. The survey therefore indicates that GPs are generally positive about the 2-week wait rule but identified some problems of implementation including a need for standardized national cancer referral forms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Family Practice / organization & administration*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / organization & administration
  • Referral and Consultation / standards*
  • State Medicine
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom
  • Waiting Lists*