GPs can ask patients not to film their faces if they record consultations

GPs have been told they can ask patients taking video recordings of consultations not to film their faces in new advice published by the MDDUS.

GP consultation (Photo: SolStock/Getty Images)
GP consultation (Photo: SolStock/Getty Images)

The advice on covert video recording of consultations, published last month, provides general guidance on how GPs should react to and deal with requests from patients to film or record consultations among growing uncertainty around the practice. 

Clinicians who do not want to be filmed are advised to tell patients that it would be ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘potentially distracting’ to have a camera focused on their face.    

The MDDUS has also said it would be ‘acceptable’ for GPs to ask patients for a copy of any consultation which is recorded to keep as part of the patient’s record. This would ‘reassure’ clinicians who worry that patients may edit recordings after the event, the medical defence organisation said.

The updated advice comes after the MDDUS identified covert consultation recordings as a continuing worry for GPs.

Covert recordings

MDDUS risk adviser Alan Frame said uncertainty around the rights of clinicans in this situation continued to be commonplace, with GPs often reacting in a defensive way to patients' requests.

'We do not hold statistics on this, but it is fair to say that this is an increasing concern for members, as more patients make use of simple and cheap audio and visual recording equipment such as smartphones,' he said.

'Indications from our advice calls and face-to-face discussions with members, suggest a big concern centres around patients intentions and use of the recording – particularly video recording. For example where is it being shared and who with? Is there a potential for mis-representation or damage to the member’s reputation?'

Mr Frame said the MDDUS advice is aimed at making GPs more aware of patients' rights to record their own consultations and to help clinicians to avoid negative reactions in situations where patients want to film sessions.

He added patients were less likely to covertly record consultations if GPs knew how to handle requests and find a solution that suited both parties. 

Patients' rights

Data protection laws and professional guidance state there is nothing legally to prevent patients from recording a consultation. There is also no requirement for patients to ask their GP for consent prior to making a recording.

For a GP to refuse to allow a video recording to take place, the MDDUS said they would have to have a valid reason, such as practical or logistical difficulties in accommodating the video recording procedure or safety concerns. 

In contrast, if a GP wishes to make a video or audio recording, GMC guidance states that doctors must obtain the patient’s consent first.

However, GP Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMC, questioned whether covert recordings of consultations were an infringement of a GP's rights and raised concerns about how such recording could be used.

‘We are all too well aware that patient’s only remember 50% of what we tell them, so often the consult with a family member,' he said. ‘Occasionally patients will ask to audio record what you have said and rarely ask to video the consultation – both of these are an agreement between the two of you and you can also agree how this will be used.

‘If a patient does covertly record the consultation, concern would be why they had not done this openly, were they going to post it on social media, could they edit bits out so the message given would be changed. Personally I would wonder whether this infringes on the rights of the GP.’

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey also questioned the benefits of covert recordings. ‘The doctor patient relationship is based on trust and it is a concern if a patient feels the need to record a consultation without informing the doctor,' he said. 'Such actions can impact on the relationship between doctor and patient and ultimately undermine it.'

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