News in brief

Medication error cases increase

Medication error cases reported to us by GP members have increased by nearly 60% over five years, according to our new study.

However, the increase is likely to be driven by the increase in GPs' prescribing workload, rather than a fall in medical standards.

We have paid around £5million in compensation and £400,000 in legal costs over the period, with an average compensation award of just over £58,000 for GP cases. The largest compensation payout made on behalf of a GP member was £1.2 million to a patient who was left severely disabled after a failure to monitor levels of a long-term prescription for lithium resulted in lithium toxicity.

DoH confirms delay in mandatory indemnity for nurses

Although it was widely believed that mandatory indemnity had to be in place by 3 October 2013 (in order to comply with the EU cross border directive) the Department of Health (DoH) has now delayed this requirement until 2014.

To find out more visit the NMC website.

CCTV in healthcare

In a recent question in the Scottish Parliament, an MSP asked whether there was a legal impediment to installing CCTV cameras in hospital wards to monitor patient safety. Coincidentally, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in England suggested that hidden cameras could form part of its new approach to inspecting social care services.

CCTV cameras are now a widely used crime prevention and security measure. The use of surveillance in healthcare settings is problematic however, because of the need to protect patients' confidentiality and privacy. A number of GP practices have sought our advice concerning the medico-legal implications of CCTV, such as whether they could disclose CCTV images from waiting room cameras if a crime takes place to the police.

If you are planning to install CCTV at your practice, consider the following learning points.

  • Record your reasons for installing CCTV and ensure they are proportionate and legitimate e.g. crime prevention. The Information Commissioner's Office says the use of CCTV should be reviewed each year. Seek advice from your local Caldicott Guardian, if necessary.
  • Ask one person within the practice, ideally the data controller, to be responsible for ensuring your CCTV system complies with the law and your ethical duty to protect patients.
  • Seek professional advice about the most appropriate surveillance technology, the location of cameras, facial recognition, time/date stamps etc. As with any third party supplier, ensure you have a contract which includes guarantees about such issues as security and patient confidentiality when processing images.
  • Install clearly visible signs which state that CCTV cameras have been installed.
  • Restrict access to stored CCTV images and only view them in a secure area. Do not retain images for longer than necessary, unless they are needed as evidence.
  • Do not disclose images of patients without consent except in exceptional circumstances when this can be justified in the public interest. Where other people are recorded on the same footage, their image should be blurred to protect their confidentiality.
  • Produce a practice policy covering the installation of cameras, the safe storage of images, retention periods, disclosure to the police and subject access requests.
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This page was correct at publication on . 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.

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