Skip to content

Investigation Launched into Patients’ Failure to Attend Urgent Appointments for Suspected Cancer

Yorkshire Cancer ResearchYorkshire Cancer Research is launching an investigation into why patients with suspected cancer do not turn up for urgent appointments as part of the charity’s new strategy to end cancer inequalities in the county.
Since 2000 the NHS has been required to make sure patients with suspected cancer are seen by a hospital specialist within two weeks of their GP requesting an appointment, but many people postpone or do not attend.
During 2012-13, 16.5% of patients from Leeds referred by their GPs were not seen in two weeks, often because they either did not attend or cancelled their consultation.
Dr Peter Knapp, Senior Lecturer in Evidence-Based Decision Making at the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences and the Hull York Medical School will investigate the reasons behind non-attendance, the consequences of not attending and identify new ways to prevent it from happening. The study, funded by a £190,000 investment from the charity, will be the first to look specifically at the reasons why people fail to show up.
Dr Knapp said: “Early cancer diagnosis has an important influence on the effectiveness of treatment and the chance of survival. The two-week policy is intended to reduce wait time and accelerate diagnosis and treatment, so the fact that this target is not being met raises concerns about missed or delayed diagnosis. By understanding why patients do not attend these appointments, we could have a significant impact on cancer outcomes in Yorkshire.”
Low cancer survival rates and late presentation with symptoms is associated with social deprivation. Yorkshire contains some of the most deprived local authorities in the country, and these areas have higher than national average mortality rates for cancers of the lung, breast, colorectal, stomach, oesophageal, kidney and bladder.
Previous investigations into delayed referrals by GPs for suspected cancer have found that cancer type is the most influential factor, but that delay is also more common in female, younger, non-white and less affluent patients.
The identification of patterns associated with non-attendance, cancellation or significant postponement of urgent referrals could help to determine if interventions should be aimed at particular cancer types, symptoms, patient ages or social groups and identify how to introduce them.
Dr Knapp said: “Social patterning of cancer survival means that deprived groups potentially have most to gain from a policy that shortens wait times for appointments and, when required, treatment. However potential benefits may be influenced by a number of factors, not least patients’ decisions to attend appointments. If patients from ethnic minorities or from more deprived areas are less likely to attend, then any inequalities in cancer survival will remain, or at worst, be widened.”
The study will involve analysing more than 200,000 patient records from the past 10 years, and conducting interviews with cancer patients from Yorkshire and GPs.
Uni of York and Hull York Medical School logos


Notes to Editors – Yorkshire Cancer Research

  • Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research is the UK’s largest regional medical research charity (registered charity no. 516898)
  • During 2015 we will mark our 90th anniversary with a renewed commitment to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
  • Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
  • Current statistics show that 527 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
  • We aim to:
    • Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
    • Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
    • Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
    • Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient’s journey.
    • Campaign for fair and equal access to the very best healthcare services and a greater share of the money spent nationally on research.
  • For further information, please visit or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.


Contact Information

  • Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer – Yorkshire Cancer Research
  • Tel: 01423 877 228


About Hull York Medical School:

Hull York Medical School (HYMS) is a partnership between the two well-established Universities of Hull and York. Since opening in 2003, HYMS has become known as one of the UK’s most welcoming and inclusive medical schools with a reputation for innovative, inspiring, exciting and rigorous medical education. HYMS’s research is organised into Centres which each conduct world-class research. Much of this is interdisciplinary, spanning traditional subject boundaries and reaching out into other departments within the Universities of Hull and York.
For further information, please visit or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
Elaine Boyes, Head of External Relations and Engagement, Hull York Medical School. Tel: 01904 321858 Email:

Event Details Icon
YCR Press Contact
  • Join Team Yorkshire and play your part in helping the people of Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
  • Find out more - Team Yorkshire
Shopping Trolley Icon
Give As You Live
  • Shop with your favourite stores and they’ll donate to Yorkshire Cancer Research.
  • Find out more - Give As You Live