Supplementary GMC guidance to Confidentiality (2009) contains information for healthcare professionals on what to do when reporting gunshot and knife wounds.
The GMC states that:
- You should inform the police quickly whenever a person arrives with a gunshot wound or an injury from an attack with a knife, blade or other sharp instrument (unless the knife or blade injury is accidental, or a result of self-harm, in which case the police should not usually be informed). If you are unsure about the cause of the injury, the GMC advises that you should consult an experienced colleague, if possible.
- The police are responsible for assessing the risk posed by those who are armed with, or have used, a gun or knife in a violent attack.
Personal information, such as the patient’s name and address, should not usually be disclosed in the initial contact with the police.
You should make a professional judgment about whether disclosure of personal information about a patient, including their identity, is justified in the public interest.
Disclosure without consent
If a patient is unwilling or unable to provide consent, you can justify disclosing confidential information if:
- It is required by law
- You believe it is justified in the public interest, such as when:
- Failure to disclose might put the patient, or someone else, at risk of death or serious harm
- Disclosure is likely to help in the prevention, detection or prosecution of a serious crime.
You should record your reasons for disclosing in the patient’s medical records.
You should seek the patient’s consent to disclosure, or tell them a disclosure has been made, if practicable, unless, for example, that may put you or others at risk of serious harm or would prejudice the prevention, detection or prosecution of a crime.
Children and young people
If a child or young person under 18 presents with a gunshot, knife or other sharp instrument wound, you must inform an appropriate child protection lead or authority. Knife or blade injuries from domestic or occupational accidents might also raise concerns about the safety of children and young people.
See the GMC child protection guidance in 0-18 Years: Guidance for all Doctors or the MPS factsheet on Safeguarding Children whenever you are concerned a child may have experienced or be at risk of harm.
If you are faced with further specific difficulties in relation to an individual patient, you should contact MPS for further advice.