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Royal college backs Hunt’s ‘name and shame’ proposals



The Royal College of Pathologists has backed health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s proposals to ‘name and shame’ GPs who continually fail to spot signs of cancer.

The RCPath president Dr Archie Prentice said the college embraces Mr Hunt’s plans to ‘publicise persistently poor detection of new cancers’ by GPs, in a letter in the Telegraph today.

Over the weekend, Mr Hunt vowed to root out GPs who put patients’ lives at risk by failing to send them to hospital for vital tests soon enough – and that doctors found to be dismissing early cancer symptoms as something less serious could face being identified with a ‘red flag’ on an NHS website.

Dr Prentice told the Telegraph: ‘The Royal College of Pathologists welcomes proposals by Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, to publicise persistently poor detection of new cancers by GPs. The timely diagnosis of cancer depends on clinical suspicion backed up by efficient use of the right test.’

‘The marked discrepancies in the use of blood tests by GPs for some cancers are described starkly in the recently published NHS Diagnostic Atlas of Variation. There is a five-fold variation in the use of the PSA test for prostate cancer and a nine-fold variation in the use of CA125 for ovarian cancer. These tests are available across the NHS. There is no single satisfactory explanation for such variable performance, but it is not because of differences in the demographics of GPs’ patients.’

He added that there needed to be the development of a list of tests that had been validated for use within the NHS.

Dr Prentice said: ‘Uniform and rapid communication of results of all tests from pathology labs to all users, especially GPs, requires the development of a national laboratory medicine catalogue, a list of pathology tests that have been validated for use within the NHS. The NHS funding of this is at risk. The college has urged the secretary of state to protect this project and its funding.’

The RCGP criticised the health secretary’s plans.

Dr Richard Roope, RCGP and Cancer Research UK clinical lead for cancer, said: ‘We know that we can always improve but using crude ranking systems to measure our performance and ability to care for our patients, may not tell the whole story.’