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Insurance reports threaten confidentiality

The confidential nature of the doctor-patient relationship is being compromised by requirements to provide medical reports for insurance purposes, GPs' leaders claim.

The RCGP and BMA are at loggerheads with the insurance industry over the reports, which doctors believe may discourage patients from having medical tests for fear of increasing insurance premiums.

They believe GPs are being expected to act as policemen for the industry and are demanding insurance applicants get a choice between a GP's report and an independent medical examination.

The BMA and RCGP have so far failed to reach agreement on the issue with the Association of British Insurers.

New rules, drawn up in an agreement between the ABI and BMA last October, say insurers should not request details of counselling, negative test results for HIV and hepatitis B and C, or whether a patient has taken a test.

But the BMA and RCGP are unhappy that the rules fall short of offering a choice of examiner to people applying for insurance.

Dr Ewen Stewart, HIV lead for the RCGP's sex, drugs and HIV task group, warned patients might still have doubts over confidentiality.

Dr Stewart, a GP in Edinburgh, said it was difficult for patients to choose between their health and their finances.

'If you have high cholesterol and it's tested then your insurance will be weighted, but if you have high cholesterol and haven't had it tested, your insurance won't be weighted.'

He raised concerns over the lack of independent medical examinations: 'The clients are applying for insurance and if someone chooses to tell a lie it's not up to us to police that.'

Dr Stewart said such pressures could interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.

The ABI said choice of medical examiner was an issue for individual firms, but firms would listen where an individual wanted to choose between their GP and an independent examination.

Insurers would only require a medical for high-value policies or if an aspect of the

history would be relevant, a spokesman said.

By Rob Finch

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