Dentists should not fear covert recordings

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release: Thursday, 20 August 2015

Dentists should avoid confrontational or defensive reactions to patients who covertly record their consultation, says UK-wide dental defence organisation MDDUS.

The increasing use of smartphones makes it easier for patients wishing to make an audio – or in some cases video – recording of a dental appointment.

MDDUS dental adviser Rachael Bell believes dentists should not resent patients who record their consultation and instead simply accept that the prospect of covert recording is a product of the digital age.

“The law offers little or no protection from patients covertly recording consultations,” says Bell. “A dentist may think that a patient would require their permission to record a consultation and that any recording made covertly was illegal.

“However, patients don’t need a dentist’s consent to record the consultation as section 36 of the Data Protection Act 1998 considers that the information in the recording belongs to them. Therefore, patients are within their rights to record the consultation and could use the information obtained to challenge the dentist’s actions.

“Conversely, dentists always require patients’ permission to record consultations, with the resulting data being subject to a number of protections.

“Any covert recording would seem inherently intrusive and a breach of trust in a patient-dentist relationship. You might expect sympathy for a practitioner whose privacy had been invaded but the law views the matter differently.

“Even if obtained covertly, courts may view the recording, if relevant to the case, as admissible. Dentists are warned that the accuracy of their records could be challenged if they do not match the recording of any consultation.

“By keeping clear, comprehensive and accurate records of consultations, dentists can justify their actions in court if necessary.”

Whilst sometimes the patient may try to use the recording to challenge the dentist, it is our experience at MDDUS that the majority of recordings support the practitioner’s actions and confirm that they acted in an appropriate manner.

“There will be occasions when a dissatisfied patient uses a recording to pursue a complaint or claim but dentists acting professionally should have nothing to fear from recordings, covert or otherwise,” says Bell.

“It may be appropriate to explore patients’ concerns in the hope that they can feel reassured without resorting to covert recording. Such discussions could reveal that there is a genuine reason for the patient recording the consultation.

“For example, MDDUS has encountered cases where isolated or vulnerable patients receiving home visits have wanted to video record their consultation. This is understandable given recent press surrounding care homes and abuse of the vulnerable.”

Ends

For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email rihendry@mddus.com.

Note to editors

MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland) is a medical and dental defence organisation providing access to professional indemnity and expert medico- and dento-legal advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals throughout the UK.

For further information on MDDUS go to www.mddus.com.