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View Full Version : Is there a doctor in the house? Question on medical confidentiality


airborne_artist
4th Sep 2011, 14:42
I complained to the GMC (UK doctors' regulatory body) about the conduct of my GP. The GMC are investigating the complaint, and so it's passed the first threshold, in that they deem there to be a case to answer.

My GP lives in the same village. I have occasionally seen him out walking with his wife, but more often I just see her, as we seem to walk our mutts at about the same time in the late pm.

While we don't stand and chat for long, we normally pass some comment about the day/weather etc. in a rather British way - friendly enough, but pretty superficial.

Imagine my surprise when her manner towards me changed about two weeks ago. No longer a smile and a short chat, now a "hello" which is clearly an effort for her. She clearly knows about my complaint.

Now I'd imagine that's a breach of doctor/patient confidentiality. Although also a doctor, she's not employed at that practice.

Proving he told her will be impossible, of course, but it's entertaining all the same.

sisemen
4th Sep 2011, 14:49
She clearly knows about my complaint.

Tell all..brothel sprouts? Something incredibly catching? Halitosis? What???

hellsbrink
4th Sep 2011, 14:54
Now I'd imagine that's a breach of doctor/patient confidentiality. Although also a doctor, she's not employed at that practice.

How is him telling his wife that someone has complained about him, if he has actually done so, a breach of the confidentiality between you and him (especially as it can be argued you breached said confidentiality by raising the complaint in the first case)?

west lakes
4th Sep 2011, 15:02
The doctor/patient confidentiality only applies to medical and other health matters not to, possibly, legal issues between the doctor and the patient.
It may be that any medical content is confidential but the fact of the complaint is not.

According to MWL who as a nurse is bound by the same rules

Firestorm
4th Sep 2011, 15:09
Check your breath. Unless that was the condition that you presented to the GP...

airborne_artist
4th Sep 2011, 15:25
How exactualy do you know he told his wife? Could it be she was having an "off day" and simply didnt want to chat to you? She's had about five or six "off days" in the last 15. Even my own dear wife whose moods also change more often than Italian governments, wouldn't stay "off" with one for two weeks without a reason.

vulcanised
4th Sep 2011, 15:31
I can't see where him talking to his wife about your complaint is anything even approaching a breach of confidentiality.

hellsbrink
4th Sep 2011, 15:51
I can't see where him talking to his wife about your complaint is anything even approaching a breach of confidentiality.

My point exactly. How is talking about a complaint raised against the doc a breach of "confidentiality" if no personal details regarding the health of AA are discussed?

sisemen
4th Sep 2011, 15:52
The point that I was trying to make is that the original post is unclear. One can deduce that the "complaint" referred to is a complaint about the doctor's conduct but it could, equally, refer to the complaint for which AA was seeking a cure for.

If the latter then there are grounds for making a complaint but, if the former, the complaint is merely a complaint on the part of AA.

I hope that is clear. If not please feel free to complain :}

SpringHeeledJack
4th Sep 2011, 15:54
Firstly may one hope that you are in fine fettle these days Mr airbourne ? Secondly, and having no idea legally, I would imagine that any issue between a patient and their doctor is confidential. The doctor has no right to discuss anything with anyone about a patient unless that someone has a part in the treatment process. If he has mentioned that a patient has filed a complaint (and identified them) to anyone not involved, then for me that is a misconduct, even if it's his wife and even if she's also a doctor. The relationship between doctor and patient should be ring-fenced, simple as that.



SHJ

Um... lifting...
4th Sep 2011, 15:54
sisemen-

Just in case things get busy...

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS0FV6JZGCuZcR7I6CbKvj-e9OMGeuHTESy897Vcv3Tp64VJruG

I submit that if aforementioned GP said to his missus... "Stay well clear of that AA... he's a bad 'un, and his Jack Russell has been knocking up all the cats in the district." it might have precisely the same effect as if he'd divulged the complications of AA's trench tuchas or the specifics of the complaint against the GP. No way to tell for sure nor to prove, and all they need do is deny, deny, deny. I suspect AA's got no choice but to grin & bear it.

G-CPTN
4th Sep 2011, 16:05
You could always complain to the GMC . . . :E

Mr Chips
4th Sep 2011, 16:09
I think that to expect a doctor not to tell his wife that a complaint has been made against him is ridiculous, and identifying who has done so is quite sensible in a small village...

Davaar
4th Sep 2011, 16:10
I can't see where him talking to his wife about your complaint is anything even approaching a breach of confidentiality

Suppose it was your complaint?

When I studied forensic medicine many years ago, the lecturer was a local physician and Police Surgeon, very strong on a physician's duty to his patient. The students were drawn from the faculties of law and medicine, so many of the comments were addressed to the latter.

One day the lecturer said: "Suppose a person suffers from a 'condition'. On the basis of our data so far, how many know about it? He does. Very well, let us write that on the board. 'THOSE WHO KNOW: 1'"

"Then", he continued, the person comes to consult his pyhsician, namely you, and gives you his story on the 'condition'. So on the basis of our data as it has evolved, how many know about it? He does, and you do. Very well, let us write that on the board too. After the first line on the board he added in chalk: '1'".

The board now read: 'THOSE WHO KNOW: 1 1'"

"So", the lecturer went on, "You have a busy day, and that evening you go home wearily and are received warmly by your wife. She asks: 'Would you like to relax with a sherry, Dear? 'That would hit the spot, Dear' you reply. As you sip on the sherry, you tell your loving wife about 'the condition'".

"Very well, let us write that on the board too. How many people know about 'the condition'"? After the first line on the board he added again in chalk: '1'".

The board now read: 'THOSE WHO KNOW: 1 1 1'"


"Now then, asked the lecturer, "How many know about the 'condition'? The class gave various answers. Some said: 'Three'".

"Not at all, said the lecturer, there are now One hundred and eleven who know. And the moral is this, that a secret is your patient's secret, not your's, not your wife's".

It is not, perhaps, the world's funniest joke, but then it is not really a joke.

That was in 1957 and every time since then that I have a new secretary who must have access to confidential files I tell her the story, for it is as relevant to my profession and her part in it as it is to medicine. I do believe that none of these good ladies has ever let me or a client down.

west lakes
4th Sep 2011, 16:12
I would imagine that any issue between a patient and their doctor is confidential. The doctor has no right to discuss anything with anyone about a patient unless that someone has a part in the treatment process. If he has mentioned that a patient has filed a complaint (and identified them) to anyone not involved, then for me that is a misconduct, even if it's his wife and even if she's also a doctor. The relationship between doctor and patient should be ring-fenced, simple as that.

As I explained in #4 that is not the case, as explained to me by someone who is bound by the same rules!

However the doctor cannot divulge any medical or health issues connected to the complaint, but he can identify that there is a complaint and who the complainant is.

teeteringhead
4th Sep 2011, 17:54
And of course doctor's wife could also be his solicitor and offering legal advice ..... one knows of more than one such couples ..

SpringHeeledJack
4th Sep 2011, 18:14
Sorry Mr West Lakes, I rushed read the posts and you did indeed lay out the fact based position.

Whilst not directly affecting the OP's case, but the divulging of his identity and perhaps his complaint (and issue) to the wife, has already had a ripple effect and as a direct consequence to the OP. It is none of the doctor's wife's business and yet the wife has already commenced prejudicing the OP :8 I know, I know, but you get the jist of what i'm getting at. Who knows whom else has been included in the good doctor's divulgences, kids, family etc ?



SHJ

hellsbrink
4th Sep 2011, 18:25
But, SHJ, if he has told his wife/kids/etc that there is a complaint raised against him but there is no disclosure of any medical conditions then there is no "breach of confidentiality". It is no different to, for example, me complaining to the PYT about how you have decided to sue me over work I have done which you are somehow not satisfied with.

hellsbrink
4th Sep 2011, 19:29
Oh, I know they don't like complaints against them. There was one here who left a bottle of steroids and a needle in the house I came over to live in and told the person involved that if she wanted steroids to help her, there they were. Needless to say, a complaint was raised and he lost his right to be a doc. Before the decision, we had to call the police on him due to the phone calls, etc, we had due to complaining and he even had the nerve to turn up at the house and try to TELL us, not "ask" or "beg", to drop the complaint. Upon receiving the appropriate 2-word answer, he went a bit abusive and ended up with a sore face for his troubles. That meant the police were called on me, and he was taken away due to his attitude.

On the other hand, I know of one doc who decided he had no choice after making a mistake which MAY have led to the death of a patient of his (the woman I came over to be with). He decided that he could not be a doc any more after what happened and immediately closed his practice.

All I'm saying is that there are good and bad, but finding the "good" can be a problem.

Mac the Knife
4th Sep 2011, 21:09
"...the doctor cannot divulge any medical or health issues connected to the complaint, but he can identify that there is a complaint and who the complainant is."

And there you have it.

Were you a passenger and the husband the pilot would you be surprised if the pilot's wife were to be less than chummy with you? You seem a bit hurt, but what did you expect? All sweetness and light? You're surprised?

It may be entertaining for you, but the GMC (and our Medical and Dental Council) take all complaints, no matter how minor, very seriously indeed. Being asked to explain yourself (been there, got the T-shirt) when all you've done is try and do your best for the patient, is extremely disturbing and the process takes years.

Oh and, "....the medical profession doesn't take too kindly to being criticised or shown to have been less than professional."

Professional pilots (or lawyers for that matter) , as we know, don't mind a bit.

Mac

PS: I'd suggest that you transfer to another practice, if you haven't already done so.

dochealth
4th Sep 2011, 21:30
If the wife is a doctor your GP is perfectly entitled to discuss the GMC complaint with other medics, including her, as part of responding to the complaint and as part of seeking collegial support as to how best to deal with it.

Probably best to focus on the original complaint for now...

Davaar
5th Sep 2011, 01:16
And of course doctor's wife could also be his solicitor

Could be worse than that. Life is complicated. The doctor could also be a solicitor, and if he so chooses, his very own solicitor.

This is where he consults theology: "Let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth".

galaxy flyer
5th Sep 2011, 04:52
Can you sue the NHS for malpractice or malfeasance?

Heads for door

GF

gingernut
7th Sep 2011, 00:41
I would imagine that any issue between a patient and their doctor is confidential. The doctor has no right to discuss anything with anyone about a patient unless that someone has a part in the treatment process.

not strictly true, public interest and safeguarding issues can (and frquently do) overule duties of confidentiality.