GP fears rising over covert recording of consultations in pandemic

Fears over patients covertly recording consultations have increased among GPs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic - threatening trust between doctors and patients, medico-legal experts say.

Covert recording (Photo: Westend61/Getty Images)
Covert recording (Photo: Westend61/Getty Images)

The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) told GPonline that queries about covert recordings have risen since April, with the spike coming just weeks after GPs switched to a 'total triage' model to maintain patient safety during the pandemic.

The medical defence organisation says increased use of telephone and video consulting has made it easier for patients to record appointments, and says the change can leave some clinicians feeling like their 'privacy has been violated'.

In updated guidance the MDDUS has advised doctors to ask patients if they would like to record their consultation as a way to start a frank discussion about their care and reassure clinicians of the patient's intentions. 

Remote consultations

Concerns over covert recording come after more than two fifths of GPs said their relationship with patients has worsened because of changes to the way practices have been asked to operate during the pandemic.

In a recent MDDUS blog post it explained that patients often record consultations to help them remember important details, or understand information. But it said this could sometimes 'unsettle' doctors or make them worry patients were trying to 'catch you out'.

A spokesperson for the MDDUS told GPonline: ‘How any recordings may be used and any related implications are commonly raised as a concern during our training courses. We reassure our members that, in our experience, any concerns about recordings being used to the disadvantage of doctors are usually unfounded and cases rare.

‘We have dealt with more queries from GPs on this issue since April and we published new advice on it in recognition that it has grown in importance as a topic for our members.’

Patient-doctor relationship

There is currently no legal basis to prevent a patient from recording their own consultation, while removing a patient from a practice list because of an issue around covert recordings would be a breach of NHS contractual obligations.

The spokesperson added: ‘Increased remote working brings challenges for practices, including maintaining effective team communication and managing the follow-up of patients who require regular monitoring, those whose referral to secondary care has been delayed or those who are vulnerable.’

MDDUS has advised doctors to try to understand why patients may want to record their consultation, and encourages clinicians to start conversations with patients about why recording a consultation could be helpful.

‘The advice MDDUS provides is intended to highlight that responding defensively can contribute to complaints or patients reverting to covert recording. It also aims to encourage doctors to respond in a considered and supportive way when patients request to record their consultation,’ the spokesperson said.

Medico-legal experts have warned GPs could face a huge wave of complaints due to changes to working practices adopted during the pandemic and delays in access to secondary care.

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