A loophole in the Data Protection Act means GPs could be forced to disclose the records of deceased patients, GP representatives are warning.

The British Medical Association’s General Practitioner Committee reported after its monthly meeting last week that there are problems with how the Data Protection Act applies to deceased patients which means their records may fall within the categories of information that have to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act in England.

The GPC says the Department of Constitutional Affairs is working with the Information Commissioner to investigate ways in which exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act may be used to prevent disclosure of deceased patients’ records. The GPC says it hopes guidelines will be produced in the near future.

Dr Peter Holden, a GPC negotiator, told EHI Primary Care that he would refuse to comply with such an FoI request and believed most GPs would take a similar stance.

He added: “At the end of the day the confidentiality of the patient is paramount and that extends beyond the grave.”

The GPC has reported that it also expects guidance from the Department of Constitutional affairs on disclosure logs to be published soon together with guidance from the Information Commissioner on refusal notices.

The GPC says practice publication schemes will need to be reaccredited by the Information Commission in 2007 and that submissions from GPs will be accepted from next June until October 2007.