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GPs may be forced to reveal cancer referral details

19 November 2009

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New plans under the Department of Health reveal that GPs could be forced to reveal to patients their reasons for making urgent cancer referrals.

Patients are not told by their GPs why they are making the referral, as in some cases it may cause undue stress.

But in its consultation on the NHS Constitution, the DH said this meant patients are “unaware” of the urgency of their referral, and called for views on whether GPs should be required to provide specific information to the patient about their rights.

However, GPs have condemned the idea as undermining their professional judgment.

Sheila Williams, Director of Wessex Local Medical Committees, says the plans will affect GPs providing the “best care” for their patients.

“It goes against the needs of an individual patient and takes away from GPs the fundamental rule of providing the best care for each patient.”

Dr Brian Balmer, Essex Local Medical Committees’ Chief Executive and GPs’ Committee member, describes the consultation as “madness”.

“To suggest that you can legislate on a sensitive discussion between a doctor and a patient is unworkable,” he says.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Department of Health

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“Not every patient is ready to hear the worst, and GPs who have received significant training and in whom we have invested much surely must be best placed to decide what to tell the patient in front of them. There are many cultural issues that also affect which patients are prepared to hear news in which way and at what time. The situation is far too complicated to be left to politicians!” – Name and address withheld

“As a cancer sufferer and practice manager I feel that I have valid views. I have an excellent relationship with my own GP (not where I work). We have a totally open relationship, which meant that as soom as he suspected multiple myeloma he told me immediately (which is what I wanted). However, I do know friends who would NOT want to know – they would be frightened and distressed to learn of such a disease in such an abrupt manner. Some would want to know the details bit by bit over time. It is therefore down to the GP who knows the patient and who knows their relationship. It is not down to pen-pushers to dictate to doctors what to tell their patients. This is yet another sop to the God of patient power …” – Name and address withheld