This site is intended for health professionals only

Warning on referral letters with ‘inappropriate’ history

GPs are breaching patient confidentiality by routinely including ‘inappropriate’ information in computer-generated referral letters, LMC leaders have warned.

Two members of Bromley LMC, Dr Hasib Rub and Dr Mark Essop, have taken action to adapt the GP systems used to compose the letters after reports that some had included detailed patient histories not relevant to referrals.

Bromley LMC newsletter warned GPs that including irrelevant information, such as ‘parasuicides or abortions from 30 years ago when referring a frozen shoulder’, could breach confidentiality requirements.

Dr Essop, who has a background in IT, adapted the EMIS software to include an alert to users about the issue.

He told Pulse: ‘The concern was that you might inadvertently draw in the fact, say, that someone had a termination of pregnancy 20 years ago. If referring for hand surgery it’s hardly relevant. Patients object.’

The warning follows discussion by GP leaders at Pulse’s commissioning roundtable last month over whether some referral management procedures could breach confidentiality.

Dr Helena McKeown, a BMA and GPC council member and a GP in Salisbury, said: ‘Does your patient expect their referral to be discussed, not only across the practice, but across a large group of doctors, nurses and managers?’