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.

“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.