'Don't name and shame GPs over cancer diagnosis' Dr Nigel Watson tells Jeremy Hunt

Daily Echo: Dr Nigel Watson. Dr Nigel Watson.

A HAMPSHIRE doctor has hit out at Government plans to name and shame GPs who fail to diagnose cancer as another “attack” which could force many top GPs to leave the profession.

Dr Nigel Watson, who represents hundreds of GPs across the Wessex region, is warning Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that such a move is not the best way to boost early detection and survival rates.

It comes after Mr Hunt said he wanted to expose doctors whose failure to spot cancer may delay sending patients for potentially life-saving scans.

In an open letter to Government, New Forest GP Dr Watson, pictured right, chairman of Wessex Local Medical Committees, writes that blaming GPs for a variation in rates of detection across the country is too simplistic.

He states that those who present with cancer “frequently present with complex symptoms” that are not typical of a particular cancer, resulting in even the best GPs seeing a patient two or three times before a diagnosis is made.

He adds: “GPs are not perfect and will occasionally get it wrong but we do try our best.”

In fact, he states that people in the UK still have a greater life expectancy than those in America, and that the NHS is the best performing of all healthcare systems in the West, despite less being spent per head than in other countries.

The letter continues: “General practice is currently facing significant challenges, with more GPs looking to leave the profession than GPs being trained to replace them.

“Many are leaving early due to unacceptable workload pressures and constant negative media campaigns blaming GPs for everything that goes wrong in the NHS. This latest attack will cause more good GPs to consider leaving the profession.

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“If there are variations in detection we need to look openly and honestly for the reasons for those and address them. Naming and shaming will not necessarily identify those who are the worst and risks naming good GPs who have done nothing wrong.”

He admits that GP practices have to look at their detection rates and review each new case to learn any lessons but says patients, hospitals and the Government all have their role to play.

He urges patients to take up screenings, give up smoking and discuss all symptoms with GPs, including any concerns about cancer.

Hospitals, he notes, need to have better access to investigations within weeks rather than months, which would require more investment, while Government needs to invest more in general practice.

Comments (3)

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11:29am Wed 2 Jul 14

RomseyKeith says...

This happened to my fiancee's mum. They failed to diagnose her cancer until she was completely riddled with (by which point it was way too late and she died 6 days later). All the symptoms were there for a very long time, but they attributed to other things, and didn't even check to be sure.
It was a horrible thing to go through for them both. Name and shame may not be the answer though. Their job is surely stressful enough. Just extra vigilance on their part in discovering these things, as well as seeking second opinions.
This happened to my fiancee's mum. They failed to diagnose her cancer until she was completely riddled with (by which point it was way too late and she died 6 days later). All the symptoms were there for a very long time, but they attributed to other things, and didn't even check to be sure. It was a horrible thing to go through for them both. Name and shame may not be the answer though. Their job is surely stressful enough. Just extra vigilance on their part in discovering these things, as well as seeking second opinions. RomseyKeith
  • Score: 4

12:18pm Wed 2 Jul 14

sparkster says...

I dont think naming and shaming will help but if a GP is not sure then the patient should be referred, I know it may clog up the system but surely it's better to be safe than sorry. I went to my GP a fewyears ago with a breast lump, she said she was pretty ceertain it was nothing to worry about but her words were "to be on the safe side I am referring you", thankfully all was ok and I cant tell you the relief and how grateful I was to the GP. Maybe if more people were referred it may just mean that more lives can be saved. I do agree GP's have stressful jobs and I take my hat off to them all, but I dont think they need the added stress of being named and shamed
I dont think naming and shaming will help but if a GP is not sure then the patient should be referred, I know it may clog up the system but surely it's better to be safe than sorry. I went to my GP a fewyears ago with a breast lump, she said she was pretty ceertain it was nothing to worry about but her words were "to be on the safe side I am referring you", thankfully all was ok and I cant tell you the relief and how grateful I was to the GP. Maybe if more people were referred it may just mean that more lives can be saved. I do agree GP's have stressful jobs and I take my hat off to them all, but I dont think they need the added stress of being named and shamed sparkster
  • Score: -1

7:38am Thu 3 Jul 14

skeptik says...

None of us go through life making perfect decisions all of the time - we often make decisions on the evidence or what we hear or see at the time. Yet some believe that god like doctors cannot or should not make decisions that later show a different outcome . Some suggest sending all to hospitals for check ups - would not that close the system down completely and make the problem worse. The government wish to make cuts and the taxpayer whilst saying they would pay more - do not vote for more taxes. If we are looking for 100% then we had better recruit more GPs and spend more on scanners and other technology - until then - it's down to decisions on experience and individual patients who I imagine display many different symptoms.
None of us go through life making perfect decisions all of the time - we often make decisions on the evidence or what we hear or see at the time. Yet some believe that god like doctors cannot or should not make decisions that later show a different outcome . Some suggest sending all to hospitals for check ups - would not that close the system down completely and make the problem worse. The government wish to make cuts and the taxpayer whilst saying they would pay more - do not vote for more taxes. If we are looking for 100% then we had better recruit more GPs and spend more on scanners and other technology - until then - it's down to decisions on experience and individual patients who I imagine display many different symptoms. skeptik
  • Score: -1
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