20% of patients may refuse consent to disclosure of information for Benefits Agency

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7077.376 (Published 01 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:376
  1. Simon J Ellis, Consultant neurologista
  1. a Department of Neurology, Royal Infirmary, Stoke on Trent ST4 7LN

    Editor–Like many practitioners, I am increasingly being asked for medical reports relating to various benefits. These reports are requested by patients themselves, the Citizens Advice Bureaux, or the Benefits Agency. They attract no fee despite the considerable amount of both medical and secretarial time they require. Although the Citizens Advice Bureaux provide signed consent from the patient to the disclosure of clinical details, the Benefits Agency fails to do so, despite my having written to it specifically requesting this on several occasions. The agency states that the person making the claim has given consent, but it fails to provide evidence that this is the case.

    Aware that it is the doctor's responsibility to know that the patient has given consent before medical details can be released, I wrote separately to 10 consecutive patients for whom the Benefits Agency had requested a report, asking for their signed consent. Eight patients gave their consent, but two refused to do so. If the results from my small survey can be generalised this would mean that a fifth of the reports provided to the Benefits Agency are being provided without the patient's full consent to the disclosure of clinical details.

    I suggest that either the Benefits Agency should provide a photocopy of the signed consent allowing disclosure or practitioners should write to their patients separately asking for such permission.

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