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Staff member looking at confidential patient records

You suspect a member of staff has been looking at confidential patient information. Can you fire them?

By Alison Graham

You suspect a member of staff has been looking at confidential patient information. Can you fire them?

Before taking any action you should carry out a thorough investigation. This is because to fairly take disciplinary action on grounds of misconduct, a practice must show that, at the time it took that action, it believed the employee to be guilty of misconduct and it had reasonable grounds for this. It must also show it formed the belief having carried out as much investigation as was reasonable.

If you consider it appropriate you could suspend the staff member pending the outcome of your investigation. Suspension should be on full pay.

Assuming your investigations do nothing to allay your concerns, you should invite the member of staff to a hearing in line with your disciplinary procedure and with the ACAS code on discipline.

If, after the meeting and having carried out all reasonable investigation, you remain of the view that the employee is guilty of misconduct, the sanction imposed should be reasonable and proportionate to the conduct in question.

Unacceptable misconduct is usually listed in an employee handbook, although this is not usually exhaustive. Looking at patient records without good reason is likely to justify a dismissal, but all the circumstances must be taken into account.

If any sanction is imposed, the employee should be given the opportunity to appeal.

Alison Graham is senior staff solicitor at Veale Wasbrough Lawyers, Bristol

Before taking any action you should carry out a thorough investigation Before taking any action you should carry out a thorough investigation

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