GPs must stop journalists 'blagging' patient data

GPs should verify the credentials of callers to ensure they do not give confidential information to journalists, the Medical Protection Society (MPS) has said.

Following recent press coverage of journalists' attempts to 'blag' confidential information from healthcare staff, a spokeswoman told the MPS received numerous requests for assistance with media enquiries.

Such requests are stressful situations for doctors, ‘alongside what is already a challenging job’, she said.

A 2008 survey found that 10% of GPs have had to respond to media enquiries about their patients.

Susan Jones, senior medico-legal adviser at the MPS, told the MPS was ‘only too aware' of the stress a doctor can experience when they attract media attention.

‘Protecting patient confidentiality must always be their foremost concern, even when patients or their families have chosen to release information to the press,’ she said.

‘This can put a doctor under incredible pressure, particularly if the resulting coverage is inaccurate.’

She added: ‘If a doctor is unsure of a caller’s credentials they should not release any information to them.  It is always a good idea to ask for their full details, and in doing so you will be able to verify their credentials before taking any further steps.’

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