GP leaders say patients are increasingly likely to want to record consultations because of the spread of smart phones and other devices.
Solicitors have warned GP groups such as Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC that patients are within their rights to record consultations with or without their GP’s consent or knowledge.
Doctors have a professional duty to keep the content of a consultation confidential, but patients can do what they wish with it, solicitors warned.
A recent Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC newsletter reads: ‘It wouldn't be strictly necessary for a patient to inform a doctor of a wish to record the consultation.
‘However if they did, it would be wise for the GP to ask what it was going to be used for, bearing in mind that footage can be manipulated. Naturally, if this is undertaken "covertly" it will be nigh on impossible for the GP even to realise.'
The LMC said legal advice was that GPs should not refuse to go ahead with a consultation on the grounds that they object to a patient's wish to record it, in case the patient came to harm as a result.
‘A practice could consider making a statement in its practice leaflet that patients are welcome to record their consultations but the practice considers it an essential courtesy that the GP concerned should be told,' the LMC advice reads.
It adds that recordings of consultations, including those made covertly, are likely to be accepted as evidence in a court or disciplinary hearing. 'Admissibility of such evidence is usually subject to the relevant court/tribunal/panel's discretion but where relevant to matters of contested fact, the weight of authority is usually in favour of admissibility. There is a recent case of a GP struck off on the strength of a patient’s evidence covertly recorded on a smartphone.’