NHS Constitution threatens to undermine GP judgment

GPs could be compelled to reveal to patients full details of their reasons for making urgent cancer referrals, under plans being mooted by the DoH.

Dr Brian Balmer: legislation on sensitive issues is unworkable
Dr Brian Balmer: legislation on sensitive issues is unworkable

In its consultation on the NHS Constitution the DoH is seeking views on how GPs communicate with patients about referrals.

In some cases GPs do not tell patients why they are making the urgent referral in case it causes them undue stress or worry.

But the consultation document says: 'This means a number of patients are left unaware of the urgency of their referral, and may choose to delay their initial appointment with a specialist.'

It calls for views on whether GPs should be 'required to provide specific information to patients about their rights and what the two week waiting time means'.

GPs condemned the idea as undermining their professional judgment. Essex LMCs chief executive and GPC member Dr Brian Balmer described it as 'madness'. 'To suggest that you can legislate on a sensitive discussion between a doctor and a patient is unworkable,' he said.

Sheila Williams, director of Wessex LMCs, said: 'We would not support any blanket law. 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.'

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