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GPs to record details of criminals’ alcohol consumption under new proposals

GPs will be required to log the details of offenders convicted of criminal offences linked to alcohol consumption under plans being put before the Scottish Parliament.

Under the proposed bill the courts should notify GP practices of an offender’s name, offence and sentence when the ‘consumption of alcohol was a contributory factor in the commission of the offence’.

It is intended to enable GPs to help the offender kick their alcohol problem.

However, it has been criticised by the BMA, who say that the extra admin would be burdensome for practices, and there is also a risk that the records will be seen by prospective employers and insurers, which could work against offenders.

Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Dr Richard Simpson, a practising GP before being elected, introduced the private members bill in April.

But the BMA’s evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee this week says it does not think that placing an obligation on the courts to notify GPs ’will make it more likely for the offender to receive appropriate treatment for their alcohol dependency’.

It adds: ’If a patient is not willing to address their behaviour, the chances of addressing it because the GP raises it are only slight. The BMA has significant concerns about this section of the Bill and would urge the committee to consider removing it in its entirety.

’It is our view that medical records should only contain information relevant to the clinical care and treatment of a patient. As medical records become more accessible to various agencies, for example insurance companies and employers, having information on legal convictions visible, after limits of disclosure have lapsed is unlikely to benefit those individual patients.’

A spokesperson for the Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs organisation said that ’many individuals do not wish their GP to be notified’.

They added: ’This is often through fear, when children are involved. The GP may disclose this to social workers, employers. This proposal may lead to increased anxiety and stigma for family members with no apparent benefit for individuals or their families.”

Please note: This article was amended at 10:57 to make clear that these proposals are a private members bill and do not represent Scottish Government policy.