Sir Graeme Catto has recorded a podcast urging doctors to put forward their views on confidentiality, including concerns about electronic records and access to patient data for research.
Sir Graeme and Jane O’Brien, the GMC’s head of standards and ethics, take part in the podcast and discuss areas such as patients concerns around the security of electronic records and access to patient data for research purposes.
Sir Graeme said: “I’m not sure that electronic records establish any new principles in terms of confidentiality. We don’t expect computers to be left on allowing ready access to anybody who happens to be passing by – but then we don’t expect written records to be left in corridors allowing access, either.
"So I do understand the practical problems of electronic records, but the established principles of confidentiality continue to apply.”
Sir Graeme said access to data for research purposes had been a “fraught issue” for many years but the guidance gave some indication of how the balance between public interest and individual patient confidentiality could be achieved.
Other issues tackled in the podcast are doctors’ duties to report injuries incurred as the result of a suspected violent attack and new draft guidance for doctors responding to criticsm from the press.
Sir Graeme said: “We would like doctors to tell us what they think of this guidance and we do hope that they will respond to this consultation. Confidentiality is an area which doctors can feel insecure about – indeed 25% of the ethical enquiries the GMC receives are about confidentiality issues and the majority of these are from doctors – so we are very keen to seek their views.”