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GP cancer referral plans do not amount to 'naming and shaming', Hunt claims

The health secretary has claimed that GPs would ‘want to know’ if they are failing to refer enough cancer cases and that plans to publish the information on the NHS Choices website were about ‘transparency’ and not naming and shaming.

Jeremy Hunt moved to clarify comments over the weekend about his plans to publish data for cancer referrals, which would include a ‘red rating’ on the NHS Choices website for GPs who fail to diagnose patients with cancer.

He denied that this amounted to ‘naming and shaming’, and said it would be welcomed by many GPs.

The health secretary added that publishing data on referrals was an improvement over targets or ‘Stalinist’ management.

The Department of Health told Pulse that they had not yet decided whether the ‘red flag’ data on GP referrals would be published at an individual level, but said it would be comparable to the way data for hospitals is now being published.

Delivering the keynote address the Healthcare Conference ‘Monitoring & Improving Patient Safety’ event in London on Wednesday, Mr Hunt said: ‘I don’t believe in naming and shaming GPs or any clinicians. But I want to use data to inform outliers.’

‘If GPs are outliers, they should know that. I can’t believe that any GP would not want to know that. But that isn’t naming and shaming. It is about giving support to improve.’

‘This is a better way of doing things than setting targets or managing in a Stalinist way.’

A spokesperson for the Department of Health told Pulse that the GP scheme would be similar to the way data is now due to be published for hospitals so they can compare themselves and ‘so patients can see how well their local hospital is performing.’

When Pulse asked if GP practices and hospitals were comparable, the spokesperson added: ‘Absolutely a GP practice is different to a hospital, I’m using the comparison because that’s the way [the health secretary] means it.

It’s putting the information out there so people can bring themselves up with the best.’

‘We’ve said we’ll set out a policy on the GP [red flagging] later in the year, so we haven’t got any more detail at the moment.’

The BMA has already criticised the publication of ‘simplistic’ league tables of GP practice performance on cancer diagnosis last year, after NHS England released a large tranche of outcomes data on the NHS Choices website for patients to scrutinise.

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  • Jeremy Hunt - online

Readers' comments (32)

  • If I want to know if I am an outlier, I do not want to read about it on NHS Choices. There are better ways of informing me.

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  • Bob Hodges


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  • This comment has been deleted.

  • Vinci Ho

    Chinese saying
    The one who comes around to spread controversy is the person of controversy.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Come on , Agent Hunt
    Have some guts.
    You want to play Stalin(I know you want to), play Stalin!

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  • he just has a face I want to inject clexane into.

    pardon the graphic description.

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  • I think he may have seen some of the backlash and as a typical politician he is desperately back pedalling . It's pathetic really that a supposedly intelligent person should demean themselves in such a way .

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  • So is it kindly scratching an itch with the tip of a blade of stabbing in the back . He needs to make his mind up .

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  • He really doesn't understand. The diagnosis of cancer depends on so many variables including, which is not the case for secondary care, when and where the patient actually presents in the first place. Doctors will already be aware if they are missing cases - he can't justify his red flag system on the grounds that it would enlighten individual doctors in any way. GP "fault" should only be attributed after full investigation of every case.

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  • Outliers should know. But this back pedalling is too late. Into the complex mix that leads to decision making about investigation and referral will now be added this explicit threat of exposure. Politicians will realise belatedly the monumental stupidity of this threat as the gatekeeper role dissolves.

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  • I am not sure what he wants to publish. Will he publish the percentage of bowel cancers that are stage C or worse? OR the percentage of people who 'say' they attended the
    Will they do it for each individual cancer?surgery more than 1, 2, 5 times?

    Will they do it for patients diagnosed through screening?
    How will he prepare/ fund the hospitals for the increase in referrals?
    Can we exclude and delays that are the fault of the hospital rather than the GP surgery?

    Guaranteed that if this goes ahead I will 2ww refer EVERY mole, every diarrhoea, every cold in a smoker, etc, etc, etc.

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