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Confidentiality dilemma if you stumble upon medical report about your partner

From Dr Andrew McKenzie


I refer to the dilemma of a GP stumbling upon a medical report about their partner (Registrar, 3 August). It was not clear whether the discovering doctor or other partners were actually the GP of the doctor

to whom the report referred.

It appears to me that there is an issue of confidentiality here. If the report is about someone who is not a patient of the practice, the doctor's right to confidentiality overrides everything. In this case, the report should be handed back to him. It may be at this time that he is offered the opportunity of making some comment.

If the doctor concerned is a patient of the practice, it appears that information handling is at fault and this looks to me to require further investigation, without apportioning blame.

While it is likely that a doctor may have misfiled the medical report, it is also possible that other practice staff may have contributed to the situation. At the very least, a meeting should be held in which the handling of sensitive information is addressed.

Sir Liam Donaldson has advised doctors that they should not treat themselves. When emotion is likely to enter a management process, I entirely agree with him. There could be conflict of interest and some emotion involved if this doctor/patient is managed by his fellow partners.

Otherwise, the doctors in the practice are no more entitled to confidential information than any other managers of any other business.

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