Lower cancer survival rates in the UK are linked to a shortage of cancer testing equipment and delays in cancer referrals, according to research by Cancer Research UK.

The research, which involved telephone interviews with 2,795 doctors from countries across the world, showed that UK cancer referrals lag behind Norway, Sweden, Australia and Canada. Also, doctors in the UK did not have sufficient access to MRI and CT scans to check for tumours.

In one example, the doctors being interviewed were asked whether they would refer a 53-year old woman who was showing potential symptoms of ovarian cancer for cancer testing. In the UK, 38% said they would send the patient for further testing compared with 61% in other countries.

According to the findings only one in five UK based GPs reported having access to CT and MRI scans, compared with 99 per cent of doctors in Victoria, Australia. Access to blood tests, X-rays and ultrasound for possible cancer diagnosis in the UK were comparable to the rest of the countries.

Madeleine Pinschof, a clinical negligence solicitor based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Bristol office, said: “These latest findings are concerning as it appears that the UK system is failing patients. If GPs do not have access to the right equipment or are unable to refer patients to a specialist for any reason then it will have an impact on cancer being diagnosed and therefore a patient’s prognosis.

“Through our work with victims of cancer misdiagnosis, we understand that the consequences of a delay in diagnosis can be devastating and in the most tragic cases, fatal. Properly resourcing and supporting cancer services in the UK must be a priority for the government if we are to see an improvement in cancer survival rates.”