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#GPnews: GPs warned against using chat apps to share clinical information

16:20 NHS doctors and nurses are using chap applications such as WhatsApp and Snapchat to share clinical information, it has been claimed.

GP Alisdair MacNair told the BBC: ‘I have also seen chat on Facebook groups that sails pretty close to the wind in terms of discussing medical information.

‘I’ve definitely seen stuff which is one step away from being patient identifying.

‘I’m very wary of going near anything like that because of the risk of breaching data laws, but it would appear others don’t seem to be aware of the risks.’

Dr Beverley Ward, MDU medico-legal adviser, said it was ‘understandable that doctors are using the same technology they find useful in their personal lives to communicate with colleagues professionally’

But she added that ‘they may not be aware that in sharing patient information this way, they run the risk of data getting into the wrong hands’.

She said: ‘If doctors are using their own mobile phone to share personal information, there is the potential for it to be lost or stolen, or for the information to be accidently sent to the wrong recipient.

‘Doctors have an ethical duty, set out in GMC guidance and a legal duty under the Data Protection Act to make sure personal information is protected from improper access, disclosure or loss at all times. In addition, doctors could be in breach of their contract, risking disciplinary action by their employer.

‘For these reasons, a personal computer, tablet or mobile device shouldn’t be used to capture and store patient data, even if the data is later transferred to the patient record system and deleted from the device.’

MDU said its advice to doctors on sharing clinical images includes:

  • Ideally images should only be taken on a dedicated clinical camera, which would need to be kept secure at all times, such as in a locked room or cabinet.
  • The image of a patient should quickly be downloaded onto the clinical record system and then deleted from the camera.
  • Get the patients’ consent to take the image and to share it with a colleague for a second opinion. Record this discussion with the patient.
  • Ensure the picture is transmitted and stored securely using official secure IT systems, such as NHS mail, to communicate within the team.
  • Try to ensure the patient cannot be identified in the image if possible. Along with removing obvious identifiers such as names and locations, consider whether the photograph could include a feature allowing the patient or someone else to be identified.

11:50 More than half of anaesthetic trainees have experienced an accident or near miss when driving their car home after a night shift, according to a survey.

The study, published in the journal Anaesthesia, also found those who walked or cycled reported ‘multiple adverse incidents’, and nine out of ten trainees used caffeine as a stimulant to counteract the effects of fatigue.

Study author Dr Laura McClelland, specialist trainee in anaesthesia at University Hospital Wales, said: ‘Fatigue among shift-working doctors is a huge problem. By minimising the likelihood and impact of tiredness, the safety of patients, doctors and the general public will be better protected.

‘We have a collective duty to ensure that doctors are allowed to rest adequately in order to promote wellbeing and ensure they perform optimally both within their clinical environment and when travelling between shifts.’

It comes as the GMC warned in its annual report on the state of training that heavy workloads continue to hamper education of junior doctors.

09:50 More people are diagnosed with cancer every year than the number of people who get married, Macmillan Cancer Support has warned.

The charity said there were 361,216 cancers diagnosed in 2014 in the UK, compared with 289,841 marriages, reports the Telegraph.

A Macmillan survey of 2,000 people also showed that cancer is the most-feared disease ahead of Alzheimer’s, stroke, depression, heart disease and multiple sclerosis.

‘Cancer is almost always life-changing, but it isn’t always life-ending. Life with cancer is still life,’ said Macmillan chief executive Lynda Thomas.