There can be times when you're concerned about someone else's wellbeing and want to get involved or understand more about their health and any treatment they're having.
A parent may want to know about their teenage child or there may be concerns about elderly parents, step-parents, friends and neighbours.
This is understandable, but the NHS has strict codes of confidentiality that govern the release of all our medical records and help to protect us all.
What does this mean if I want to get help for someone else?
Doctor-patient confidentiality means all patients have a right to confidentiality.
Anything said to a doctor in the privacy of their consulting room is covered by the Data Protection Act 2018, including the fact a person was even there.
This means a doctor cannot share medical information with another party, including spouses and siblings, unless the patient has given explicit consent for that information to be released. Exception to this is if a GP considers there to be a safeguarding issue, then this will be referred to the appropriate authority.
All medical professionals are governed by confidentiality, so nurses and hospital staff such as radiographers can't breach it either.
Can I make an appointment for someone else?
In practice, friends and family do make appointments for other people.
But the patient should always be aware that an appointment has been made and, ideally, confirm with the doctors' surgery they are happy for that appointment to go ahead. If the person refuses, you cannot make an appointment for them.
If the person's reluctance to get help is down to nerves, you could always offer to go along with them to the surgery and offer support.
The person may even want you to accompany them during the consultation – but this must be their decision, not yours.
So what can I do?
It can be distressing if a friend or relative refuses to get medical help.
But unless they require treatment under the Mental Health Act, confidentiality means it is often difficult to help them get treatment.
You could make an appointment to discuss your concerns with that person's doctor. You can raise concerns about your friend or relative's health with their GP without their consent, but because of patient confidentiality, the GP won't be able to discuss any details.
While this information can be helpful, it's likely the doctor will only listen to what they are told and say little in response.
This is not rudeness or a sign your concerns are being ignored, but simply helping to protect the confidentiality of the other party.
You don't have to belong to the same GP practice as your friend or relative to do this.
You could talk to your friend or relative directly if you wish to discuss their condition or treatment. Tell them about your concerns about their health, and offer help and support.
At Fakenham Medical Practice if you have concerns regarding a family member or friend you can raise these concerns in the following way:
You can contact the practice on 01328 851321
Or write to us at:
Fakenham Medical Practice