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Giving consent to third-parties

Sometimes we receive requests from people (such as relatives, partners, etc) who wish to deal with medical matters on behalf of the person who is our patient. Whilst these are almost universally motivated by good intentions and in the best interests of the patient concerned, they pose a medicolegal problem for the practice.

We are required by law (with only a few very specific exceptions) to maintain the confidentiality of our patient's medical record. This can cause the people trying to act on behalf of the patient to think that we are being obstructive, but that is not the case.

The General Medical Council take seriously breaches of confidentiality and there are also potential legal sanctions for unjustified breaches of confidence. We therefore have to be certain that the patient gives their consent for us to interact with others on their behalf and we make no apology for ensuring that we have this consent before doing so, however urgent the other person might consider their request.

If you are the patient, you must give very serious consideration to the ramifications of giving your consent for someone else to interact with us on your behalf. There have been cases elsewhere when, for example, parents have discovered things about their adult child's medical history which the son or daughter never wanted their parents to know. Obvious examples include sexually transmitted infections or contraceptive choices.

We therefore will only interact with people other than the patient concerned when:
• we posses signed and witnessed consent from the patient
• the patient specifies exactly what they wish to be discussed
• the consent is contemporaneous (i.e. relates to a very recent or current matter that has not ended and is not a new epsiode of previous illness)

The validity of any consent may not last for more than six months, even for an on-going matter.

We have sought legal advice in the preparation of our consent form and have tried to satisfy the legal requirements of this process as best we can. Please help us to safeguard our patients' confidentiality by willingly complying with our process when you wish to act on someone else's behalf.

Please note, we retain the right to reject any application to give consent to a third-party, where we consider it given wrongfully, under duress, or inappropriate in any other way. Please also note, this advice and the third-party consent form is NOT designed to be used for giving consent for matters such as reports, forms, insurance application data releases, etc. This advice relates specifically to giving consent for a third-party to act on your behalf.

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