GPs face legal duty to share elderly patients' records

Child protection law may be extended to elderly, by Joe Lepper

GPs could be forced to share patient records with social services or the police after a review of measures to protect elderly patients.

The move would effectively extend existing child protection legislation to vulnerable adults.

In its submission to a DoH consultation, the charity Action on Elder Abuse is to call for GPs to be legally bound to share information in abuse cases.

The charity's chief executive Gary Fitzgerald said: 'If abuse is suspected there should be a duty to share information about the patient.

'Similarly all agencies should have a legal duty to co-operate. GPs could also help to gain access to a care home or speak to a family. We would expect the police to do this, but a GP may be able to help as they may know the care home staff and family.'

Trusts and councils currently have no statutory duty to work together or share information in abuse cases, although the 2000 guidance documents No Secrets in England and In Safe Hands in Wales urge them to do so.

However, GMC professional guidance does require GPs to share information where vulnerable patients, including children and adults, are at risk of abuse or neglect.

Dr Nick Clement, a senior medico-legal adviser at the Medical Protection Society, said: 'The current guidance and GMC advice is robust enough. GPs have a professional duty to disclose information even without patient consent if it helps prevent abuse or neglect.

'If someone is suspected of abuse and the GP knows that person has a history of drug abuse or mental health problems then they would already disclose that information without the need for new laws.'

GPletters@haymarket.com

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