Confidentiality covers many areas and is a complex subject. It goes with out saying that your Consultations with us are confidential. This means that we will not tell anybody, and by the way that does mean husbands, wives etc what has been said unless you give us your permission to do so. Normally we will require written permission from you to disclose such information.
Confidentiality however is about much more than what is said in the doctors consulting room. Here are some questions our reception staff often get asked:
"can you tell me if my husband/wife is still at the surgery?"
"what time is my husband/wife appointment?"
"has the letter about my husband/wife from the specialist come in yet?"
"are my husband/wife blood tests back?"
If our staff were to answer any of these questions they would have breached your confidentiality and would be breaking the law so they have been trained NOT to answer these questions. We understand that this might be irritating but there is a way around which is to fill in a form (available at the reception desk) which gives permission for family members or others who you nominate to be given answers to questions such as these.
Our reception desk is in a public place and this makes maintaining confidentiality very difficult at times.If we were to apply the letter of the law strictly then even addressing you by name could be seen as a breach of confidentiality.
A quiet moment at reception.
Please respect the privacy of others by not crowding around the desk whilst others are being attended to and if you do not wish to talk openly please tell the receptionist and we will arrange to see you in a more confidential area.
Unless all our patients are prepared to be labelled with a unique number which you learn and answer to, then the process of calling you in from the waiting room to the consulting room does mean that we have to use your name. This could involve the doctor or nurse calling out your name in the waiting room or as we prefer to do it by using an electronic notice board called a "Jayex board". When the doctor is free to see you he will use it to call you in by displaying your name and which room to go to.
Many of our patients are frail and prefer to let a family member, neighbour, relative or pharmacist pick up their prescriptions. For us to try and obtain consent for this to be done for all our patients would be impossible, unworkable and cause immense difficulties and distress to those patients who are dependent on others to help them.
Therefore in this area alone , and because we believe it to be in the public and patients interest we assume that every patient gives consent to a family member etc etc to picking up their prescription If you are unhappy about this then we would ask you to opt out of this by telling our reception staff.
Teenagers and children under 16.
Teenagers have the same right to confidentiality as adults even if they are below the age of consent. If a teenager consults us we do not disclose this fact even to their parents. Many parents may be surprised at this so a word of explanation is needed. We act in accordance with what have become known as the Fraser principles.
In essence the doctor must be sure that the child understands the nature of the problem that they have come with. We must be convinced that they understand the harm the illness may cause them and that they understand the potential harm of any treatment as well as its benefits.
The doctor must try to get the child to agree to him speaking to the parents or allow him to speak to the parents on the child's behalf. However if the child refuses to allow disclosure of information then this must and will be respected.
Bringing others to the consultation.
If you wish to bring another person with you to the consultation (e.g. your partner) then you must accept that it will not be possible to maintain confidentiality.
There are occasions when not only can we breach confidentiality but have a positive duty to do so and you should know about these circumstances.
1. The Secretary of State for Health has the right to see your records without your permission.
2. The Courts may order disclosure in a legal case.
3. If you have epileptic fits and drive you are obliged by law to contact the DVLA and you must not drive. The DVLA normally write to us advise us that they have withdrawn your licence. If we believe that you have not told the DVLA we have a duty to inform them without your consent.
4. Rarely if the patient withholds consent, personal information may be disclosed in the public interest where the benefits to an individual or to society of the disclosure outweigh the public and the patient's interest in keeping the information confidential.