Any system of 'star-ratings' for GPs now looks unlikely after the Royal College of GPs broke off talks with the government over the proposals.
The college has promised to consult with the profession before deciding whether to develop its plans for 'Michelin-style' stars following its climbdown over proposals that could have seen the ratings displayed outside practice entrances.
The college issued a terse statement last week announcing that proposals to produce an accreditation system were being suspended following concerns from GPs that the scheme would be 'misused' as a star-ratings system.
Reports in the national press had claimed the system would award GPs one, two or three stars to provide patients with an indication of quality 'not dissimilar to the Corgi rating given to plumbers'.
But an outcry among GPs forced the college to back down just two days after initial reports of the scheme appeared, announcing that it had suspended talks with the Department of Health.
The white paper Our Health, Our Care, Our Say, published in January, promised that the DoH would work with the Healthcare Commission to devise an assessment system for primary care practices.
It suggested that rather than develop a new system from scratch, this could involve the commission rubber-stamping a scheme already produced by doctors' own organisations, such as the RCGP's quality team development scheme.
The scheme has already been used by more than 2,000 practices to assess the services they provide to patients, and it would have been the basis for the college's 'star-ratings' system.
National Association of Primary Care chair Dr James Kingsland said the RCGP's proposals were a well-meaning attempt to pre-empt any kind of star system being imposed by government.
But he said a lack of involvement from other GP organisations such as his own, the British Medical Association and the NHS Alliance probably meant it was doomed to fail.
NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon said he thought it unlikely that any kind of rating system for GPs would now be imposed centrally because star-ratings were 'discredited'.
A DoH spokesman said the RCGP's proposals were just one example of possible assessment schemes for GP practices. He added that the DoH would continue to talk to the Healthcare Commission on how GP practices could be accredited.