Responsibility for follow-up during the diagnostic process in primary care: A secondary analysis of International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership data
Nicholson BD., Goyder CR., Bankhead CR., Toftegaard BS., Rose PW., Thulesius H., Vedsted P., Perera R.
© British Journal of General Practice. Background: It is unclear to what extent primary care practitioners (PCPs) should retain responsibility for follow-up to ensure that patients are monitored until their symptoms or signs are explained. Aim: To explore the extent to which PCPs retain responsibility for diagnostic follow-up actions across 11 international jurisdictions. Design and setting: A secondary analysis of survey data from the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership. Method: The authors counted the proportion of 2879 PCPs who retained responsibility for each area of follow-up (appointments, test results, and non-attenders). Proportions were weighted by the sample size of each jurisdiction. Pooled estimates were obtained using a random-effects model, and UK estimates were compared with non-UK ones. Free-text responses were analysed to contextualise quantitative findings using a modified grounded theory approach. Results: PCPs varied in their retention of responsibility for follow-up from 19% to 97% across jurisdictions and area of follow-up. Test reconciliation was inadequate in most jurisdictions. Significantly fewer UK PCPs retained responsibility for test result communication (73% versus 85%, P = 0.04) and non-attender follow-up (78% versus 93%, P < 0.01) compared with non-UK PCPs. PCPs have developed bespoke, inconsistent solutions to follow-up. In cases of greatest concern, 'double safety netting' is described, where both patient and PCP retain responsibility. Conclusion: The degree to which PCPs retain responsibility for follow-up is dependent on their level of concern about the patient and their primary care system's properties. Integrated systems to support follow-up are at present underutilised, and research into their development, uptake, and effectiveness seems warranted.