Under new government plans, GPs with a poor record of determining the signs of cancer are at risk of being named publicly.
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, wants those doctors who fail to spot cancer which may delay patients from receiving life-saving scans, to be exposed.
Labour said that the idea was desperate and has accused Mr Hunt of launching an attack on doctors.
The Royal College of GPs stated that the system was crude and could result in doctors needlessly sending patients to specialists. This could result in hospitals being flooded.
The ranking of GP surgeries on their speed of spotting cancer and referring patients is being proposed as part of the health secretary’s plans to make the NHS more transparent.
This information could ultimately be published on the NHS website.
The move was prompted after a survey last year which indicated that around 25% of patients who eventually received a cancer diagnosis had seen their GPs at least three times before they were referred to a specialist.
The Health Secretary said that the level of cancer diagnosis varies greatly around the country. The aim is to improve both the levels of diagnosis and to bring those practices that experience poor referral rates to the same standards as the best GP practices in the country.
GPs who are found to be missing too many cancer cases or who have patients who are forced to undergo repeat visits before being referred to a specialist will be red flagged.
GPs with quick referral times will receive a green flag.
The shadow Health Minister, Jamie Reed, said the government is not prepared to take responsibility for the problems it has caused in the NHS.
He said David Cameron has wasted billions on re-organising the healthcare system with a system no-one wanted. This reorganisation resulted in cancer patients waiting much longer for tests and treatments. Mr Reed said that the Prime Minister should be ashamed of his personal record and not attack doctors. He added that the government has discarded any progress that had been made on cancer care.
The Chairperson of the British Medical Association’s general practitioners committee, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said the naming and shaming of doctors will not help patients. He stated that the focus should be placed on the reason for the referral delays and the public should be made aware of the symptoms and signs of cancer. He stated that the whole system should be reviewed and simply naming and shaming doctors will increase the tendency to refer everyone to a specialist. This would result in hospitals being inundated with outpatients and patients who need to see a specialist may actually have to wait much longer.
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