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GMC revamps guidance on confidentiality

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs have been told they must make a report to the police every time they treat a victim of gun and knife crime, as part of a raft of new guidance on patient confidentiality launched by the General Medical Council today.

The guidelines, developed following a lengthy consultation period, also require GPs to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if they are concerned that a patients' condition may be impairing their ability to drive.

GPs will also be allowed to overrule patients with inherited conditions who want to keep their condition secret, if they feel it poses a risk to others' health.

The guidance - entitled Confidentiality – offers specific advice to GPs on the disclosure of information for QOF reviews, insurance, employment, and benefit claims, and the secondary use of patient data for research.

It says GPs must ensure any data provided for QOF is anonymised. Whilst the GMC acknowledged that some healthcare systems do not allow this to happen, it said GPs must be prepared to stand up to their trust, ‘to ensure that these systems are changed over time'.

Dr Krishna Korlipara, a GP in Bolton and a former council member of the GMC, said he hoped the guidance would equip GPs to voice their concerns at PCTs who had overridden their confidentiality concerns when demanding QOF data.

‘I would welcome it, and I'm sure the vast majority would. PCTs seem to be going in heavy-handed and overriding doctors' consent. It's up to doctors to say, I can't let you do it, and if they are doing it, they have to be reported.'

He added that the advice on driving should allow GPs to balance respect for patients' confidentiality against public safety.

The guidance, which takes effect from 12 October 2009, also urges GPs to ensure that any secondary school or college students sitting in on consultations understand the importance of respecting patient confidentiality.

There is also updated information on handling criticism in the press, with GPs warned that any disclosures of patient information without consent are not acceptable, regardless of provocation.

GMC Confidentiality guidance

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