A painful disclosure - medical case study

...A senior civil servant telephoned the GP and asked if the doctor could confirm whether or not Mr L could be considered sufficiently fit enough to attend the disciplinary hearing...

BACKGROUND: Mr L, a civil servant, was summoned to appear before a disciplinary hearing at the local council where he was employed. He suffered from chronic low back pain and his GP had recently provided a medical certificate stating his unfitness to work.

A senior civil servant at the council telephoned the GP just before the hearing. He stated that he did not want any specific medical information but then asked if the doctor could confirm whether or not Mr L could be considered sufficiently fit enough to attend the disciplinary hearing. Mr L had never seemed to have difficulty attending the surgery before so the GP stated that in his opinion Mr L was fit to attend a hearing.

Citing the medical certificate Mr L did not attend the hearing and was later dismissed. He contacted a solicitor and raised an action against the GP and the Health Board on the grounds of negligence and breach of confidentiality. He alleged that the GP had made the disclosure without his consent and was thus responsible for his dismissal.

ANALYSIS/OUTCOME: The GP could not counter Mr L’s version of events and MDDUS legal experts deemed the case indefensible.

KEY POINTS

  • Follow GMC guidance on confidentiality.
  • In a case like this ensure that patients provide consent for disclosure of medical information.