GPs are increasingly getting caught in the crossfire between divorced or separated parents who want access to their children’s medical records, experts have revealed.
The Medical Protection Society, one of the world’s leading medical defence organisations, says there has been a steep increase in calls from GPs concerned about requests for access to children’s medical information from separated parents. The MPS has had 800 calls over the past five years, with 179 of them in the last year alone – equivalent to a phone call every other day. The numbers will be just a fraction of the total, since not all GPs belong to the MPS and many doctors will not ask for advice on what to do.
The calls come usually from fathers who do not have the child living permanently with them. They may need medical information while their son or daughter is staying for a weekend or holiday, but doctors sometimes call the MPS for advice because they are concerned about the motivation for the request. There have been occasions when a father wanted to see the record in the hope of finding out where the mother is living or if she has a new partner.
Sometimes a man may contact the GP to see his child’s record because he wants to find his ex-partner. “There may be circumstances where the mother has been the subject of physical abuse and may be living in a place of safety. The approach from the father to see the child’s record might be to establish the current whereabouts of the child’s mother.
“He may have a right to access the child’s record, but the GP may have to be mindful of the fact that he may have to withhold any information leading to the whereabouts of the mother.”