Scottish referral guidelines for suspected cancer: quick reference guide

Scottish Referral Guidelines for Suspected Cancer is a quick reference guide for cancer referrals.

This guidance has been superseded by a newer (2019) version.

This Quick Reference Guide has been produced by the Scottish Primary Care Cancer Group with support from The Scottish Cancer Group and the Scottish Government.

An electronic version is available at

The Guide is based on the Scottish Referral Guidelines for Suspected Cancer a copy of which is available at

Unless otherwise stated, patients with a suspicion of cancer should be referred urgently.

General Principles

Patients' and carers' needs in the referral process

All health care professionals must:

  • Be sensitive to the patient's wishes to be involved in decisions about their care.
  • Provide understandable information at a level appropriate to the patient's wishes to be informed.
  • Provide information about any referral to other services, whether to secondary or tertiary care, including how long they might have to wait, who they are likely to see, and what is likely to happen to them.
  • Consider carefully the need for physical and emotional support whilst awaiting an appointment with a specialist.
  • Consider any carer's needs for support and information, taking issues of confidentiality into consideration.
  • Take the individual's particular circumstances into account, e.g. age/ family/ work/ culture.
  • Be aware of and offer to provide access to sources of information in various formats.
  • Maintain a high standard of communication skills, including for example, in the process of breaking bad news
Back to top