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Dilemma: Path lab confidentiality

You’re registered as a patient at a different surgery but your partner works in the path lab. You need to have blood samples taken, but you’re really reluctant to have them done under your own name. In a previous case your partner found out my test results before you did. Are there any legitimate ways you can pursue an accurate diagnosis without your partner finding out the results before you do?

Laboratory staff are bound by confidentiality and, while this means they should not disclose results, unfortunately there isn’t any way of avoiding an authorised person in the lab seeing results. However, if your partner is aware that you are being investigated, you may wish to ask him or her to request that a colleague deal with your samples when received. 

An alternative option would be to discuss with your GP, or treating consultant, if it is possible for your samples to be sent to another laboratory, if necessary on a private basis. This should solve the problem of your partner finding out your results before you do.

Using a false name, when sending samples can also lead to incomplete or inaccurate medical records and cause confusion if these results need to be acted upon further down the line and they do not appear in the appropriate records.

The GMC require doctors to be honest and trustworthy when completing or signing forms, reports and other documents and deliberately falsifying requests for lab tests is in breach of GMC guidance, whatever the circumstances. To do so risks sanction on the doctor sending the samples.

Dr Mary Peddie is a medical adviser at UK-wide medical defence organisation MDDUS.

Readers' comments (2)

  • The Dilemma doesn't lie in 'path lab confidentiality' - your problem lies in your desire to conceal results from your partner. Why?

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  • John,

    I have known patients who have had path tests undertaken for cancer etc and they have been reluctant to want to let anyone know. I think that on some occasions we just have to accept that people want their privacy to be respected.

    Would, however, the simple answer be to just use the patients GP details for reporting back and then the NHS number as the single identifier? This may get round the issue in part as it may be something the 'partner' does not know off the top,of their head.

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