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Practice dilemma: PCT wants access to records

During a QOF inspection, one of the PCT inspectors (non-medical) wants to access your patients' records. You want to be cooperative, but this request falls outside the consent you have gained from patients previously. Should you refuse? Our legal expert advises.

Any consent is specific to its own circumstances. If what is being proposed lies outside what the patients have consented to, then you do not have consent to proceed in this way.

The GMC makes it clear in ‘Confidentiality: disclosing records for financial and administrative purposes' (September 2009) that express consent is normally required before disclosing identifiable information for purposes such as financial audit, or reasons other than the provision of care or local clinical audit.

Speak to the PCT and explain the difficulty. It may be possible to get around the problem by disclosing anonymised or coded information, but if identifiable information is needed, or it is not practicable to remove identifiable information, then they should obtain appropriate patient consent. As this has already been done previously, it should not prove difficult to do so.

In the event of difficulties it would be sensible to inform your defence organisation and to ask the LMC to become involved in discussions with the PCT to resolve the matter on behalf of your practice.

Dr Nick Clements is head of medical services (Leeds) at the Medical Protection Society

Practice dilemma: PCT wants access to records