This site is intended for health professionals only

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.


Visit Pulse Reference for details on 140 symptoms, including easily searchable symptoms and categories, offering you a free platform to check symptoms and receive potential diagnoses during consultations.