Ceylan Simsek, Medical Case Manager, and Dr Karen Ellison, Medicolegal Consultant, both of Medical Protection, look at the legislation behind your statutory duty to notify.
On 8 June 2022, the UK government published new legislation as an amendment to the Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010. This amendment has included the reporting of monkeypox in the list of notifiable infectious diseases and, prior to that, COVID-19.
Registered medical practitioners now have a legislative duty to inform their local council or local health protection team (HPT) about anyone diagnosed with, or suspected of having, monkeypox or any other infectious disease that is included in the list.
This statutory duty should be executed by informing the “proper officer” and completing the notification form. The notification form should be sent to the proper officer within three days of the diagnosis or suspected diagnosis being made or, if urgent, within 24 hours.
Under the GMC guidelines, Confidentiality: disclosing information about serious communicable diseases, doctors do not need to obtain patient consent to disclose relevant information required by the law. The GMC guidance also states the following:
“13) You may disclose information to a person who has close contact with a patient who has a serious communicable disease if you have reason to think that: the person is at risk of infection that is likely to result in serious harm; the patient has not informed them and cannot be persuaded to do so.”
For further specific situations on patients without capacity or where children and young people are at risk of a serious communicable disease, the guidance provides further details.
You should inform your local authority of any notifiable infectious disease, either suspected or confirmed, and this duty now includes the reporting of monkeypox. It is advisable to make an accurate record of your decision-making process in the event of disclosure. You must also bear in mind that different areas of the UK may have local variations of the regulations.
For any advice on this topic, please contact Medical Protection on 0800 561 9090.
Disclosing information about serious communicable diseases - ethical guidance - GMC (gmc-uk.org)