UK health service doctors under fire for evading disclosure

The UK's National Health Service has decided that doctors working in the public healthcare scheme will be able to opt out of 'league tables' designed to measure the doctors' performance.

Nonetheless, health secretary Jeremy Hunt today said that health service staff who refuse to provide data of their track record would be named and shamed.

He said there was ''no valid reason'' why consultants should not make their figures available.

Hunt's pronouncements came after it emerged doctors could opt to keep out of the league tables - with no indication that they withheld their consent to participate.

The league table idea has been championed by the Conservatives since 2009, but has yet to be introduced. The tables have been taken up by Hunt to allow patients to pick by which doctors they want to be treated.

Officials are reportedly drawing up plans to publish the death rates of NHS doctors as early as next month, and subject to legal requirements.

''Subject to proper risk adjustment of the data there can be no valid reason why it should not be published - and the majority of consultants strongly support the case for doing so.'' Hunt said.

''In an era of public concern over patient safety issues at Mid Staffordshire Hospital, this will be a major step forward in restoring public confidence.''

Information about how well patients recover following surgery or treatment is set to be published to give the public the choice to use the best health professionals and drive up standards.

However, doctors can opt out on the grounds of data privacy.

Public patient survival rates are said to have dramatically improved after previously restricted data was made available.

However, a spokesman for NHS England said on Thursday that there is still ''some way to go'' before the organisation is sufficiently transparent.

''Around 96 per cent of consultants across ten specialties who have responded have opted in to the publication of data about their performance, which patients should have the right to see,'' he said.

''We urge all consultants to think very carefully about the effect on their patients and their colleagues if they choose to opt out on the basis of legislation designed to protect personal data.''

A spokesman for the Royal College of Surgeons said it was a ''watershed moment'', and urged doctors to take part in the league tables.

 Data for non-consenting surgeons cannot be published without breaching the Data Protection Act, he said.