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'New law threatens patient trust'

By Rob Finch

A new Scottish law allowing public bodies to examine children's medical records without first gaining consent will destroy trust between doctors and patients, GPs warn.

Under the Joint Inspection of Children's Services Act 2006, police, social services and education officials can demand to see records even when there is no suspicion of child abuse.

One GP was so incensed by the potential impact, he told last week's annual Scottish LMCs conference in Clydebank he would break the law.

Dr John Rankin, a GP in Stirling, told delegates that to 'maintain our integrity' GPs should oppose the law as strongly as possible.

He said: 'I'd be quite happy to commit a criminal act.

'There are things you have to do for your own integrity ­ and hopefully this is one of them.'

The issue provoked the most anger among LMC representatives at the conference .

Dr David Love, outgoing joint Scottish GPC chair, told the conference patients' rights were 'coming under threat' as a result of the new law.

He said: 'Any GP who tries to protect the confidentiality of his or her patient by denying access to their medical record will be committing a criminal offence. I think this is an appalling state of affairs.

'We shall continue to fight against this erosion of the GP's duty to protect our patients' confidentiality.'

Dr Love warned that ministers were also looking to extend the powers to cover the records of vulnerable adults and the natural parents of adopted children.

GMC council member Dr Brian Keighley, a GP in Balfron, Stirlingshire, cautioned GPs against putting their GMC registration in danger by breaking the law over such 'ill-conceived legislation'.

GPs at the conference voted unanimously that the law would deter children from seeking health advice and demanded better communication of the facts of the Bill.

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said the proposals had been given 'broad support' during the consultation period. He said: 'Informed consent is the normal precondition for sharing data. However, if a vulnerable child or adult is at risk of harm or doing harm, it can be overridden.'

The new law also gives inspectors the right to enter

GP premises to retrieve information and requires GPs to explain medical records to inspectors.

pulse@cmpinformation.com

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