One in 10 GPs asked by media about patients

GPs have been warned about the dangers of breaching patient confidentiality after a survey found that one in 10 have been approached by the press about a patient.

The Medical Protection Society (MPS) found that 10 per cent of GPs and over 20 per cent of hospital consultants have had to respond to media enquiries about their patients.

The MPS has developed guidance after the survey of over 600 doctors found that many experienced stress and confusion when dealing with journalists.

Sixty per cent of doctors rated media coverage about healthcare professionals as negative or very negative.

Most doctors - 85 per cent - were aware that patients do not forfeit their right to confidentiality even when they or their families have chosen to release information to the press.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey admitted he was unaware of the frequency of the media calls about patients, and urged GPs to put patient confidentiality first.

'Clearly even when the patient initiates a conversation with the press, the doctor must not endanger their trust.'

The MPS guidance explains how to speak to a journalist about a patient and discusses airing views to the media carefully. Advice is also offered on what GPs can do should they be represented unfairly in the press.

The MPS document comes as the GMC invites GPs to give their views on speaking to the press as part of its consultation on patient confidentiality guidance.

Stephanie Bown, director of policy and communications at the MPS, said it can be extremely stressful for doctors who become the focus of media attention.

'In 2007, MPS dealt with over 80 press calls in the UK alone that related to a doctor's treatment of a patient,' she added.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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