Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Practice Competent Novice


BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 17 April 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:888

Rapid Response:

Confidentiality for all

Bourke and Wessley's article on confidentiality was comprehensive in many respects but omitted a serious point, namely that medical staff only have the right to access medical records when they are directly involved in the patient's case.

This was dramatically illustrated in the trust where I work when Richard Hammond, a well known television personality was admitted to Leeds General Infirmary after suffering a serious head injury during filming for his television show (1). It was estimated that around 300 medical staff accessed his medical records via the internal computer system in the 24 hours following his crash rather than the 20 or so, which would be expected for a patient in intensive care. Disciplinary action ensued for a minority and employees of the trust are now routinely reminded that they must only access medical records when this is strictly necessary.

This example also serves as another reminder to medical staff: just because various personal details concerning a patient are in the public domain, does not mean their right to medical confidentiality is compromised.


Competing interests: None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

22 April 2008
David A King
FY1 Doctor
St James' Hospital, Leeds