A needless expense

...Two further letters were ignored at which point the solicitor instituted court proceedings against Mr L to force disclosure...

Solicitors acting on behalf of a patient contacted Mr L in regard to a potential claim of negligence in connection with repeated attendance at his dental surgery for a toothache. In the course of treatment an X-ray was taken and antibiotics dispensed but the patient's pain persisted and she re-attended the surgery numerous times. She claimed that as a result of this prolonged treatment she subsequently developed facial pain and persistent jaw problems.

The solicitor's letter asked for disclosure of the patient's notes and records in accordance with the Data Protection Act. The letter included a consent form signed by the patient and confirmation that a reasonable fee would be paid to the surgery for photocopying and postage costs.

Mr L ignored this request and a subsequent letter from the solicitor a month later informing him that under the Data Protection Act an acknowledgment of a request was required within 21 days with disclosure within 40 days. Two further letters were ignored at which point the solicitor instituted court proceedings to force disclosure.

Copies of the records were eventually forwarded to the patient's solicitors and Mr L was made aware that he would be liable for court costs involved in the forced disclosure. Only after repeated letters from MDDUS over a period of approximately three months did Mr L eventually send a cheque made payable to patient's solicitors.

Outcome and analysis

The patient's solicitors make further preliminary investigations after finally receiving the records and decided to close the case. Despite repeated requests, Mr L has yet to present MDDUS with a detailed report on his treatment of this patient.

Key points

  • Ensure that you respond promptly to communications from solicitors requesting copies of dental records.
  • Be aware that you will be responsible for any legal costs due in relation to forced disclosure.

 

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