Please be aware that our staff are bound to the NHS code of confidentiality; they are therefore not permitted to discuss any of our patient’s medical history, including registration status, without their written consent to do so.
Once written consent has been received and verified with the patient we can provide you with information as required; this includes communicating with you on behalf of the patient with regards to any complaints, but excludes patients who are unable to act on their own behalf and already have a designated person or carer responsible for their medical care.
We therefore respectfully ask parents, relatives and guardians not to request information regarding their relatives/friends or to complain on their behalf unless we have their written consent that you may do so. If consent is required we advise that the person concerned attends the Practice to complete the required form.
Children and young people under 18 years
If a young person is able to understand the implications of the disclosure, they are able to give their consent, regardless of age. In practical terms, consideration should be given to whether any child aged 12 and over may be competent to give consent. If a child is not competent to give consent, someone with parental responsibility may consent to disclosure on behalf of the child.
Mothers have automatic parental responsibility, as will the father if they were married at the time of the child’s birth. For children whose births were registered after 15 April 2002 in Northern Ireland, the father has parental responsibility if he is named on the child’s birth certificate. There are also other circumstances in which fathers may gain parental responsibility.
Patients lacking capacity
Adults are assumed to have capacity unless they have an impairment affecting their mind (eg, dementia), which means they are unable to make a specific decision at a particular time. We have a requirement to ensure all practical steps have been taken to help the individual make a decision. If a patient lacks capacity, we will act in their best interests when deciding whether to disclose the information.
After a patient has died
Our duty of confidentiality to our patient remains after death. In some situations, such as a complaint arising after a patient’s death, we will discuss relevant information with the family, especially if the patient was a child. If we reasonably believe that the patient wishes that specific information should remain confidential after their death, or if the patient has asked, we will respect that wish.
Under the Access to Health Records (Northern Ireland) Order 1993, if a patient has died, the “personal representative” of the patient (usually an executor of the will) can apply for access to the relevant part of a patient’s medical records, as can someone who may have a claim arising out of the patient’s death (eg, for a life assurance claim). Access under this legislation, should, however, be refused if the record includes a note, made at the patient’s request, that he or she did not wish access to be given on such an application.