I am sure you know the searing pain of paying your indemnity fees. After handing over £8,000, you may be surprised to hear that two of the biggest companies are advising that we have no rights to refuse if a patient wants to record a consultation.
Not only can we not refuse if they ask outright, but if they record us covertly, that is also allowed as long as they don’t show it to a third party. Apparently the issue is this: we can’t decline to assess them in case they are seriously ill, and the confidentiality being breached is theirs, not ours. As long as they don’t care, we don’t have a leg to stand on.
I am genuinely open-mouthed at this. I can’t imagine a greater breakdown in the doctor-patient relationship than covertly recording a consultation.
Also, it implies that we are lesser beings than those we treat. We are not allowed to be ill. We are not allowed to ‘clock off’ like other professions. We are not allowed to express dissatisfaction or humour at the behaviour of patients. We are not allowed to protest about workload because our massive pay negates that right. We are routinely expected to tolerate abuse from patients and relatives if we don’t accede to their demands. We are the whipping boys of the NHS.
I have about seven minutes to consult and examine, then a frantic three minutes to type, refer or deal rapidly with any extra problems raised. Do I now have to cope with a smartphone being pressed into my face as I examine that rash on your snotty child’s thigh?
If a patient wants to record me consulting with them, they should do so at that mythical time when I can put my full MRCGP hat on. When I have 30-40 minutes to explore their ideas, concerns and expectations; to deal with the seven-item list they have brought, to do a textbook examination of every possible system involved, and to come to a wholly acceptable shared management plan with full counselling regarding the pros and cons of any treatments proposed or otherwise.
While we are at it, why not just install cameras in all our consulting rooms? When patients arrive we can offer a complementary hair and make-up service with reception, then wardrobe service with the practice nurse, and after their consultation with the GP a gift-wrapped souvenir CD recording? In between, we can live-stream footage to waiting patients of me in my room stuffing down a packet of Jaffa Cakes in lieu of lunch.
Now, tell me, where do I sign up?
Dr Zoe Norris is a GP in Hull
• Ed’s note: Welcome to our new columnist Dr Zoe Norris, who is temporarily taking over Peverley’s slot in the magazine while he has some well-deserved time off