Confidentiality is a common concern for patients hoping to access the Practitioner Health Service and we understand the importance of this to patients.
PH therefore considers confidentiality carefully and we have a number of measures in place to ensure the confidentiality of our patients. We use registration number rather than patient names in all electronic correspondence and limit paper correspondence wherever possible.
If patients would like to use a pseudonym when they register, they may do this and have the opportunity to list any clinicians or other staff members within the service that they know and would like to prevent from having access to their records.
During meetings or discussions regarding patient care, any member of staff who has been prevented from accessing the notes can be asked to leave before the patient is brought into the discussion. Records will not be passed on to any third party except when required by law.
Sick GPs and GP trainees are entitled to a confidential health service. We now have MOUs to agree and General Medical Council (GMC) have agreed that where individual practitioners self-refer to PH for advice or treatment, they will be assured, where the safety of their patients is not compromised, that their case will be handled on a confidential basis, with no reporting to an external agency.
In those rare cases where a patient is not willing to comply with advice on managing their health problem and their condition appears to pose a risk to their patients, PH will have a responsibility to act. If a practitioner patient is not engaging with treatment or adhering to advice that is then putting the patients they treat at risk, PH may have to step in by advising the employing or contracting organisation to restrict a patient’s practice and refer to the GMC, or (very rarely) directly refer them to the GMC. Equally, if a patient continues to engage in illegal activities (e.g. drug taking) following advice to stop, this would also require their clinician at Practitioner Health to have a discussion about self-disclosure or if this is not followed through, speaking to the employer or GMC. Since 2008 when the service began the NHS Practitioner Health Service this has only been necessary on a handful of occasions.
There may be other situations where there is a statutory duty to breach confidentiality (for example, to the DVLA). However, these are very rare and will only ever be undertaken as a means of last resort.
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