Background: Recognition of people presenting to the general practitioner with symptoms suggestive of colorectal cancer varies considerably, as do the subsequent patterns of referral and treatment. The Lower Gastrointestinal Electronic Referral Protocol (e-RP) was developed to be used alongside the national Choose and Book programme. This paper addresses the validation of the e-RP. <br/><br/>Methods: The e-RP was validated using three datasets: 100 consecutive patients with colorectal cancer, 1002-week wait (TWW) suspected cancer referrals and 100 routine referrals. The actual destination of referred patients, their clinical diagnosis and referral urgency were compared with destination and referral urgency assigned by the e-RP. <br/><br/>Results: Some 43.0 per cent of patients with colorectal. cancer were actually referred through the TWW system and the e-RP successfully upgraded 85.0 per cent of these patients as TWW referrals (Pearson chi(2) = 9.76, 1 d.f., P = 0.002). The e-RP also redirected three of four patients with colorectal cancer in routine referrals to TWW clinics. Right-sided cancers were appropriately directed to colonoscopy as the first contact in secondary care or to outpatients for investigation of a palpable mass. Most patients with left-sided cancers were directed to flexible sigmoidoscopy clinics. <br/><br/>Conclusion: A dedicated referral protocol addressing all colorectal symptoms would significantly improve the overall yield of colorectal cancers through the TWW route and reduce delays in patient pathways with 'straight to test' in secondary care
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