Medicopolitical Digest

Bugging of surgeries will be limitedPostgraduate body consults on multiprofessional workingNurse prescribing scheme to be extendedGovernment admits to shortages in defence medical servicesPrescribing and supply of medicines to be reviewed

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7080.611 (Published 22 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:611

Bugging of surgeries will be limited

Safeguards to limit police bugging of doctors' surgeries are to be written into the Police bill, the home secretary told the House of Commons last week. Doctors' leaders had protested about new statutory powers for the police to intercept and monitor conversations between doctors and patients (25 January, p 250).

Michael Howard said the bill would be changed so that the approval of a special commissioner—a High Court judge—was obtained before a surveillance operation began where there were reasonable grounds for thinking that it could affect legal, medical, or journalistic privilege, or where the operation involved intrusion into residential dwellings, offices, or hotel bedrooms. He said that prior approval would not be necessary in urgent cases, though the commissioner would have to be notified as soon as reasonably practical after the authorisation had been given by a chief constable.

The changes, Mr Howard said, would provide an oversight system that fully recognised the sensitivity of the operations but ensured that police and customs officers would be able to deploy the most sophisticated methods necessary to achieve effective results against serious crime such as drug trafficking, kidnapping, terrorism, …

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