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Sports physicians working as team doctors, sports club or governing body medical officers come under more pressure to divulge medical information about their patients to the media than most other doctors. A search of the literature indicates inadequate guidance as to how they should react to these requests, and therefore it is perhaps not surprising that some sports physicians admit they felt underprepared for this aspect of their work.
The General Medical Council advice given in “Good Medical Practice” (2006) is undeniably central to what doctors do in the UK.1 “Patients have a right to expect that information about them will be held in confidence by their doctors. Confidentiality is central to trust between doctors and patients. Without assurances about confidentiality, patients may be reluctant to give doctors the information they need in order to provide good care.” Box 1 details what is expected of a doctor who is asked to disclose information about a patient.
Box 1 From Good Medical Practice (2006)1
If you are asked to provide information about patients you must:
inform patients about the disclosure, or check that they have already received information about it;
anonymise data where unidentifiable data will serve the purpose;
be satisfied that patients know about disclosures necessary to provide their care, or for local clinical audit of that care, that they can object to these disclosures but have not done so;
seek patients’ express consent to disclosure of information, where identifiable data is needed for any purpose other than the provision of care or for clinical audit – save in the exceptional circumstances described in this booklet;
keep disclosures to the minimum necessary; and
keep up to date with and observe the requirements of statute and common law, including data protection legislation.
Elite sportsmen and women are of interest to the public, who may follow every aspect …
Competing interests: None.
↵i Workshop Attendees: Peter L Gregory, David Hulse, Rick Seah, Rachel Scurfield, Pria Krishnasamy, Eva Carneiro, Justin Hughes, John Rogers, Noel Pollock and Leon Creaney.