Q A practice has received a request from a local company for a medical report relating to a patient, Mrs B, who is one of their employees. Mrs B has consented to the report but has asked the practice not to mention her previous mental health problems. The practice manager is unsure how to proceed and calls MDDUS for advice.
A When dealing with requests for medical reports, it is the responsibility of the applicant to provide the practice with a written copy of the patient’s consent. Before providing a report, the practice must check the patient is aware of what information will be disclosed and that they understand their rights under the Access to Medical Reports Act. By law, if the information is relevant then it must not be excluded. In this case, Mrs B’s GP should discuss the issue with her. If she still refuses to allow references to her mental health treatment, the GP should explain to the company that a report cannot be written, taking care not to disclose the information Mrs B did not want revealed.
Q A partner in a dental practice is setting up his own surgery and wishes to take his patients’ notes with him. Unfortunately the entire practice’s notes are held electronically and cannot be separated. The practice manager asks an MDDUS adviser if the partner can be given a copy of the entire practice’s records on a disc so he can access his own patients’ notes.
A Giving the partner a disc containing all the practice’s records without seeking every individual’s express consent would be a breach of the Data Protection Act. Ideally, the information would be electronically separated, with a disc containing the records of the departing practitioner’s patients being transferred to the new practice. However, this has often presented technical problems, in which case the best solution would be to download and print the records of the patients who intend to move. While this would undoubtedly be expensive and time consuming, it would ensure that only hard copies of the correct notes are scanned in at the new practice. Before doing so, remember to seek the written consent of the patients who wish to move practice.
Q A manager has been asked by one of the practice employees whether she will be included in the practice’s pension scheme now that the new pension enrolment law has come into force. The manager tells MDDUS the practice has 15 employees and he is unsure if the new law applies.
A The automatic enrolment scheme will apply to all employers, including practices. Practices will be obliged to enrol staff into a pension scheme where they are not already in a pension at work, aged 22 or over, are under state pension age, earn more than £8,105 a year and work in the UK. However, the scheme is being introduced in stages depending on the PAYE scheme size. For practices with less than 30 workers in a PAYE scheme, the earliest they will have to comply is June 2015. It is advised to confirm your auto-enrolment date at: www.bit.ly/QHTfej
Q A dental surgery uses radios and MP3 players to play music in its treatment rooms and waiting room. The practice manager has read reports that a recent court decision exempts dental surgeries from having to buy a licence to play music. He calls MDDUS to check.
A The ruling in March 2012 by the European Court of Justice was made in relation to Italian law and does not affect the situation in the UK. Practices DO still need to pay for a licence from the Performing Rights Society in order to play music in their premises, whether via radio, TV, CD, MP3 or live performance. By not having or cancelling an existing PRS for Music licence you may be liable for infringement of copyright. Licences for dental practices start from as little as £44 a year and it would be advisable to purchase one, rather than risk breaching copyright laws.
Q A medical practice is reviewing the way it stores information regarding patients with firearm or shotgun licences. After concerns were raised by some of the doctors, a practice manager is considering tagging the medical records of such patients. She calls MDDUS for advice.
A The BMA issued ethical guidance on firearms in July 2011 which advises against placing electronic tags in medical records to indicate whether a patient holds a firearm or shotgun certificate or has applied for one. An MDDUS adviser confirms this is also the Union’s position and explains that holding such data would breach the Data Protection Act. Practices are not expected to police the firearms licensing system in this way and would only be required to raise any concerns if notified about a licence application or renewal.
Q A practice has recently registered a patient from Poland who has been treated for various health issues for the past four months. During his last visit he asked the practice to arrange for his lengthy previous medical records to be translated from Polish to English to allow him to access state benefits. The cost of the job would be around £3,500.
A There is no requirement for the practice to arrange and pay for the translation of this patient’s entire Polish records. It would be reasonable to arrange for specific items within the record to be translated if these were directly relevant and necessary to provide safe patient care. It may be useful to discuss contractual issues in more detail with your Health Board/PCT or LMC.