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Practice dilemma: Police drugs enquiry

Your patient has been arrested by police but claims the drugs in her possession were prescribed by a GP in your practice. They call for confirmation of this. What should you do? Our legal expert advises.

The GP did not prescribe the drugs, but neither they nor the practice have the patient's permission to disclose confidential medical information to the police and should not do so.

Doctors are only entitled to disclose personal information about a patient to police only under certain circumstances, for example if it is in the public interest or if police are investigating a serious crime, such as assault or murder.

In this particular case, the charges appear to be minor and would not give the GP the right to disclose without the patient's consent.

Practices should always refer to GMC guidance on making disclosures to the police and call medical defence agencies for specific advice.

Dr Gail Gilmartin, senior medical adviser at MDDUS (the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland.

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