The practice is registered with the Information Commissioners Office and fully abides by the principles of the Data Protection Act. We are bound by the General Medical Council guidelines on confidentiality, which is more restrictive than the Data Protection Act.
Confidentiality is one of the keystones of medicine and is central to maintaining trust in the doctor-patient relationship; information you give us is treated in the strictest confidence.
With whom may information about me be shared?
Other than the doctor or nurse treating you, any member of staff may need to have access to your health records. Every member of staff is bound by strict confidentiality codes of conduct, which includes what information they can access and when.
By giving us private information, it is generally understood that that information may be shared with some individuals or organisations without your direct permission. This is called implied consent. Examples include:
- Other doctors or nurses within the practice may be asked for a second opinion on your case.
- Administration staff will need to access your records to get results, print prescriptions, type referral letters etc
- If you need to be referred to another health professional, such as physiotherapist, counsellor or hospital specialist, we will need to share relevant information with them. However, such referrals will usually have been discussed with you first
- If you request us to undertake work on your behalf, relevant information may need to be shared without your express consent, for example: whilst booking an ambulance, the ambulance service will need us to tell them your name, date of birth, address and any significant medical conditions
- Selected external organisations may undertake work on our behalf. For example, the practice pharmacist will need to be able to view patient records to ensure patients are on the best medication for them. In most cases this will be done on the premises, but in some circumstances this may be undertaken at another location. Any organisation undertaking work on our behalf will be bound to the same rules of confidentiality.
- We are a teaching practice, so interesting cases may be discussed with other doctors as part of our continued learning, or with registrars and medical students attached to the practice. Wherever possible this is anonymised.
- We may be required to provide anonymous data to East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (ELCCG) for the purposes of strategic health care planning. This information is collected by Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit and stripped of any details that may identify you personally. LCSU & ELCCG are both NHS organisations and bound by the same rules on confidentiality.
The only other circumstances when information would be shared would be where we are required by law (such as when directed by the courts) or where we believe that a crime may be committed that would endanger other people (an obvious example of this would be suspected child abuse.) The law also allows us to break confidentiality where it is in your best interest; this is only ever used in very exceptional circumstances, such as finding a patient unconscious or incapacitated.
With whom will information about me not be shared?
We will not share medical information with any one else without your express (and usually written) permission. This includes employers the police (except where we directly ordered by the courts or in the detection of serious crime), insurance companies, council and so on.
We will also not share information with relatives, including spouses, without permission.
It surprises many people that in this modern age, each organisation holds its own records and the systems currently do not ‘talk’ to each other – the hospital cannot see a patient’s GP records and vice versa. This means that patients have to keep repeating their medical problems and there is no way of checking what medication they are on.
Summary Care Record
The Summary Care Record is a national initiative to reduce these problems by having a central database that holds a record of patients’ medication and allergies. These are uploaded from GP records every time a change is made to a patient’s drug list. The Summary Care Record can only be accessed by selected health organisations and, except in an emergency, only with a patient’s permission. You have the right to opt out (or opt back in) at any time by informing the practice.
Local Record Viewing
The Summary Care Record allows only a limited view of the records. GPs, hospitals and other relevant Health and Social Care agencies providing care to patients in East Lancashire are co-operating to allow each other access to records. The amount of access to read records will be dependent upon the organisation and what it safely needs to treat you – trigger for the release of data will be linked to that required to treat you appropriately.
The system has safeguards in place:
- a patient has to be registered with the service for the service to access the records
- except in an emergency, a patient has to be present to give permission for records to be accessed
- organisations can define exactly which part of a record another organisation can access: we can define a different profile for different services
- the system keeps a record of everyone who accesses the system and exactly which part of the record they have viewed.
- The GP computer system can lock individual patient records and even individual entries, if there is something particularly sensitive.
- The records themselves never leave the organisation holding the record. Unlike the summary care record.
You have the right to opt out of this service by advising your GP or hospital. However, we recommend that you do not exercise this right given the safeguards in place and the benefits to you in an emergency.