Almost one person in three UK lung cancer patients dies within 3 months of diagnosis, according to a report in the BMJ journal Thorax Today.

The study found that the patients died within three months, despite visiting their GP several times. The warning came as UK researchers suggested GPs may not be picking up early signs of the disease.

The Royal College of General Practitioners said it needs investment and better access to technology to drive up early detection of lung cancer.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham analysed more than 20,000 cases of lung cancer, recorded by 444 general practices, over a 13-year period.

They found that patients who died from the disease within three months of diagnosis had been to see their GP more frequently in the months before their diagnosis.

The research also found that the odds of an early death (within three months of diagnosis) were lower among those who had had a chest X-ray in primary care, but rose in tandem with the number of GP consultations they had had.

RCGP cancer lead, Dr Richard Roope, said: ‘Lung cancer is notoriously difficult to diagnose in primary care, especially as a key symptom is coughing, which is present with numerous other conditions that GPs see every day.

‘Instead of criticising GPs, we need to invest in general practice to allow us to employ more GPs and support staff and to give GPs more access to technology that could ultimately save our patients’ lives,’ he said.