Consultants who block their outcome data from being published in a new transparency initiative will be “named and shamed” from next week, HSJ has learned.
Jeremy Hunt announced plans to disclose the names of surgeons attempting to opt out of the scheme, ordered by NHS England, last week. It emerged doctors could be able to refuse to disclose the details under data protection laws.
HSJ has since learned that consultants who opt out will be listed on a public website, likely to be that of the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership, although details are being finalised. This will begin on 28 June.
Named clinicians will be given the opportunity to detail, via pre-defined categories, why they have decided not to consent to their data being used.
Reasons such as that the surgeon has concerns about the validity of the data or that they are opposed in principle to the data being made public will be among potential pre-defined selectable options, HSJ understands.
All feedback received from surgeons will be collated and analysed by the HQIP outcomes team in order to inform future iterations of the website.
A spokesman for HQIP, the organisation leading on producing the performance information, told HSJ: “The interest of the public in this pioneering work is clear and so to ensure patients are kept fully informed of progress regarding it, a list of consultants who have not consented will be published online.
“With more than 97 per cent of consultants consenting to having data published regarding their clinical practice the enthusiasm for such data to be publically available is clear.”
The spokesman added that the number of consultants agreeing to consent is “increasing by the hour”.
It is thought that there are around 100 clinicians who are yet to consent to their data being used.
Some NHS leaders have argued they should be allowed to publish the data without the consent of clinicians, because it is in the public interest. However, it is understood they have failed to secure robust legal grounds to do so.
Well placed sources told HSJ this week the NHS had received three different legal opinions on the matter, two to NHS England and one to the HQIP.
Two of the legal opinions, one to NHS England and one to HQIP, said doctors could withhold their data. However one opinion, which is more recent advice to NHS England, said the information could be published without individuals’ consent.
A senior source involved in the process told HSJ: “The [new] legal advice is that the public interest supersedes [the right of doctors to protect their personal data]. We are in discussions with lawyers and various other people about what’s right and what’s legal.”
Professor Norman Williams, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: ‘We have been clear from the outset that no surgeon should use the law to hide the results of their surgery from the public.
“Nor are they: more than 98 per cent of surgeons are expected to give their full consent to their data being published.
“It has been decided by the government to name surgeons who have not consented to this, with the reasons for their non-consent being given.
“There are a small number of surgeons who have genuine reasons to withhold agreement, such as the quality of their data, and they must be open about those reasons.’
Consultants still wishing to provide a response, must email firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm Tuesday 25 June, the HQIP spokesman said.