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Am I covered out-of-hours?

Q. I am a GP partner and also work for an out-of-hours organisation. Is this work included in my medical defence cover?

A. This is something you must clarify with your own defence body. We have confirmed that for at least one of the cover providers, any additional out-of-hours sessions that are included as part of that GP's contract would be covered by their current subscription. However, if these sessions are not part of that contract then the GP must notify the medical defence organisation so the cost of cover may be reassessed to reflect the additional work.

If there is any doubt regarding the adequacy of your medical defence cover you should always check directly with your insurers since the cost of being uninsured could prove to be exorbitant.

Records after patient death

Q. The wife of one of our patients who recently died has asked for copies of her husband's medical records. However, a few months before he died, he wrote to us saying his wife was not to have access to his medical records. May we release them to her now he is dead?

A. Your legal and professional duty of confidentiality to a patient extends beyond death. In view of the husband's explicit dissent to disclosure of his medical records to his wife you must maintain his confidentiality. If she needs a copy of the notes to settle a claim arising out of her husband's death the notes may need to be made available. The wife should seek legal assistance and if necessary a court order may be obtained to require disclosure.

In the absence of a court order you should not release the notes without first seeking specific legal advice from your medical defence organisation.

Names on letterheads

Q. I am a doctor working at a practice under the flexible career scheme. Our practice manager insists that for 'legal reasons' my name must be removed from the practice letterhead. Is this true?

A. Your practice manager probably believes you could be considered to be 'held out' as a partner if your name is included.

This would make you liable in the same way as the partners. The GPC has advised us that under the Business Names Act 1985 a business is required to include all the names of its partners on the letter heading if they are not in the business name. All those partners carry joint liability in relation to their business.

The GPC advises that practices may include the names of other members of staff including salaried doctors on their letterhead. However, it is important that they put a very clear qualifier by their name (eg assistant, staff GP) to distinguish them from the partners. Failure to do this could leave these doctors/staff members open to carrying joint liability with the partners.

Neither Pulse nor Wessex LMCs can accept any legal liability in respect of the answers given – you should seek independent legal advice before acting on the information concerned

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