A common dilemma on the advice line is requests for medical records by the police or social services. Senior Medicolegal Adviser Dr Pallavi Bradshaw shares her advice
Medical Protection has received over 100 calls in the past 12 months from concerned members relating to their professional obligations when providing care for victims of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month serves as a timely reminder to GPs of their duties around consent and patient confidentiality.
Common situations where doctors seek advice from Medical Protection include requests for medical records by the police or social services, concerns raised by family or friends and being asked to provide a report on injuries.
It is important to remember that domestic violence encompasses physical, psychological, sexual and financial abuse within the home and includes forced marriages, honour crimes and female genital mutilation. A GP who is aware or suspects that their patient is a victim of domestic violence should address their concerns with the patient first, while providing medical attention and psychological support.
They should try to obtain the patient’s consent before approaching social services or the police. In circumstances where the patient lacks capacity, is deemed vulnerable, or the violence puts the welfare of others at risk, such as children, a lack of consent should not prevent disclosure to suitable authorities.
Duties in relation to safeguarding are well established and must always be followed, especially where children may be at risk of abuse. If a doctor suspects female genital mutilation has been performed on a patient under 18, they have a professional duty to report to the police.
The doctor’s primary concern is always to act in the best interests of the patient. Doctors should use their professional judgement as to whether or not they disclose sensitive patient information, but if they have concerns about their obligations they should contact Medical Protection, or their defence organisation.
Find out more
Read Medical Protection’s factsheet on Disclosure without consent
Please note: Medical Protection does not maintain this article and therefore the advice given may be incorrect or out of date, and may not constitute a definitive or complete statement of the legal, regulatory and/or clinical environment. MPS accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the advice given, in particular where the legal, regulatory and/or clinical environment has changed. Articles are not intended to constitute advice in any specific situation, and if you are a member you should contact Medical Protection for tailored advice. All implied warranties and conditions are excluded, to the maximum extent permitted by law.