Even when someone in a position of authority makes an enquiry about a patient, the rules on confidentiality remain the same...
A dental receptionist received a telephone call from the headmaster of a local school enquiring whether a particular 14-year-old child had attended the surgery that day for an appointment with the hygienist. Apparently the child had a history of truancy at the school and it was suggested that this was just another ploy to explain his non-attendance.
On this particular occasion the child had in fact attended the clinic, but without his mother. The receptionist, having checked the appointment book, was about to provide the information requested when the hygienist, who was passing the reception desk at the time, overheard the conversation.
Fortunately, before the information was released, the hygienist realised that an issue of confidentiality was involved. The headmaster was stalled for some hours while the mother was located and her parental consent for release of the information was obtained.
Acting in the patient’s best interests prevented disciplinary action by the school against the boy and also, coincidentally, the possibility of a professional misconduct case being brought against the dentist for the breach of professional confidentiality by the member of their staff.
It is important to ensure all staff understand the implications of maintaining patient confidentiality.
These case studies are based on real events and provided here as guidance. They do not constitute legal advice but are published to help members better understand how they might deal with certain situations. This is just one of the many benefits dental members enjoy as part of their subscription.
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