Senior doctors' leaders are backing plans to allow patients to rate consultants' personalities as part of '360-degree appraisals'.

Hospital consultants should be assessed for their empathy, trustworthiness and whether they look patients in the eye, the Royal College of Surgeons president Bernard Ribeiro told HSJ.

He said: "We've moved into a situation where process is the name of the game rather than quality of care. The emphasis is on getting people through the system as quickly as possible. Surgery is about total quality of care, not just how well an operation went."

GPs could use the information to help patients choose where to have elective procedures, Mr Ribeiro said. He did not approve of the data being placed on NHS Choices or used to inform commissioning decisions.

"Commissioners have to look at results and value for money. We can have an abrasive doctor who has the most fantastic results. It should be seen as a 360-degree appraisal from patients," he said.

NHS medical director Bruce Keogh agreed with the proposal. He said: "I don't think it's a bad idea, it provides patients with a more complete picture."

But he said any information should be widely available to patients.

Research published by the General Medical Council last week supported the idea of patient and colleague questionnaires.

Plans to introduce questionnaires were first raised in the 2007 white paper Trust, Assurance and Safety, which said the information could be used in revalidation processes.

In the GMC study, patients were asked about their doctors' communication skills and ability to explain conditions and treatments and to involve the patient in the decision-making process. Responses were received from 13,754 patients attending 380 doctors.

The GMC has now commissioned more in-depth testing of the questionnaires across whole organisations and in different clinical settings.