Police may ask GPs for information about rioting and looting

GPs may be asked for information about patients' involvement in the looting and riots in England as the police continue their search for suspects, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) has said.

Breaching patient confidentiality could be justified in the case of suspected crimes that threaten serious harm (Photograph: Rex)
Breaching patient confidentiality could be justified in the case of suspected crimes that threaten serious harm (Photograph: Rex)

The MDU also said GPs may be faced with a situation where they believe a patient has taken part in the riots because have unexplained injuries or have confided their involvement during a consultation.

The MDU said GPs must use their judgement to weigh the seriousness of the patients’ actions against the potential damage to their trust as a result of breaching patient confidentiality.

It highlighted that the NHS Confidentiality Code of Practice says that breaching patient confidentiality could be justified in the case of suspected crimes that threaten serious harm to public order or involve substantial financial gain or loss.

But it said breaching confidentiality may not be warranted in cases of theft, fraud or damage to property where loss or damage is less substantial.

MDU medico-legal adviser Dr Yvonne McCombie said: ‘In this context, if a patient is suspected of offences likely to cause injury, such as throwing missiles, robbery or arson, doctors may feel justified in disclosing information or reporting their suspicions.

‘However, doctors who are in any doubt should first seek specific advice from experienced colleagues or from their defence organisation.’

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