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21 March 2024

RACGP supports national cancer screening bill

The RACGP has welcomed the Albanese Government expanding the National Cancer Screening Register to help tackle lung cancer and called for key improvements to the register so that GPs and patients can get the most out of it.

It comes following the Government today introducing the National Cancer Screening Register Amendment Bill 2024, which adds lung cancer to the cancers incorporated in the register. This will support earlier detection of lung cancer when treatment is most effective.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said that expanding the register was a positive step forward.

“This is a smart public health decision,” she said.

“Lung cancer must be taken very seriously. In 2021, it was the most common cause of cancer death in Australia, in that year there were well over 8,000 lung cancer deaths. The National Cancer Screening Register is such an important asset because it invites and reminds eligible patients to get screened for cancers that could take their life. Many people are busy in their lives and have other things front of mind, so prompting them to get tested or screened can be the difference between finding a cancer in time or a terminal diagnosis.

“The register also creates a useful safety net by encouraging patients and their healthcare providers, including GPs, to take the next steps in terms of screening so that they stand the highest chance of a successful outcome. There is nothing anywhere else in the world quite like it. The register creates a national platform to underpin the Government’s approach to tackling bowel cancer, cervical cancer, and now, thankfully, lung cancer.”

Dr Higgins said that this was an opportunity to improve the register and make it even more valuable for GPs and patients.

“The screening register is a great thing, so let’s get the details right,” she said.

“The Government must urgently fix some problems concerning how the register integrates with existing general practice systems called clinical information systems, or CISs. There are issues relating to connectivity difficulties and delays, with the software only working sporadically, the last thing busy GPs and practice teams need. Also, the process for accessing the information we need during consults with patients is notoriously slow, limiting our ability to take full advantage of this register and do the best for our patients. So, we urge the Government to work with us and make sure the entire process is seamless and responsive for all GPs and practice teams across Australia.

“Moreover, let’s cut red tape. Many GPs are reluctant to complete time-consuming administrative work generated from the register system. If these processes are important, we should be funded to complete them, or they should be automated from within general practice CISs. We just don’t have that extra time to be tied up with this work, caring for our patients must come first.

“Finally, the Government should strongly consider the next step of adding breast screening programs to the register. We understand that breast cancer screening programs are administered by the states and territories; however, let’s find a solution so that this deadly cancer is incorporated too.”

Media enquiries

Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP can contact John Ronan, Ally Francis and Stuart Winthrope via: