While doing lifestyle checks, a nurse assessed a male patient as having risk factors for increased serum cholesterol. She discussed the implications of having a blood test to measure his cholesterol levels with the patient and he agreed to venepuncture for this purpose. During the consultation the patient also admitted to a regular alcohol intake of approximately 40 units per week. The nurse therefore decided to take enough blood for liver function tests (LFTs) as well. But she did not discuss this with the patient. As a result, although the patient consented to venepuncture for the measurement of his cholesterol level he had not given informed consent for LFTs. The results of both tests were within normal limits and so no follow-up was necessary. Three months later the patient applied for a personal insurance policy and his GP was asked to complete a medical report.
The patient, who applied to see the report under the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988, was amazed when he saw that the GP had described the recent LFTs in response to a question on the form. The patient was angry that he had not been consulted and afraid that it might affect his application for the policy.
In the event, the policy was offered to the patient. If, however, he had been able to show that he had suffered harm because of the inclusion of this information on his records, he could have taken action against the nurse for trespass. Any direct interference with a person that is not justified can result in court action. No harm has to be proved. The nurse could also have faced a disciplinary procedure and/or a UKCC hearing.
In this case the practice organised a seminar to discuss the issue of consent to treatment.
This page was correct at publication on 01/01/2002. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.