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A breach of my patient confidentiality


smellyjim69
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Hi everyone. I'm looking for some advice regarding what I consider to be a breach of my patient confidentiality.

I will try to cut a long story short. I went to my GP for a routine cervical screening procedure. Before my appointment time, I nipped to the loo.

 

As I was making my back through the waiting room, my name was called. Before I reached the nurse I heard her say to a gent in the room "don't worry, I didn't call you, I know your not here for a smear test". I could have died. I don't embarrass easily, but I was mortified. I followed nurse into the treatment room and asked if I'd misheard. She replied it was just a joke.

 

No it wasn't I said, it was a breach of patient confidentiality, and if I done that, I would lose my job. Well I was only joking she said, and anyway I'm running a smear clinic this afternoon so he would have known anyway. No he wouldn't, I said, he doesn't have a cervix so he wouldn't know, besides, that's not the point, You had no right to say it. Well I've said it now, sorry if you aren't happy, now are you having the procedure or not she said.

 

No! I go to rebook at reception and they're adamant she will have to do it another day. I'm trying to calmly tell them I will wait longer and see the other nurse. they're making it difficult though. I ended up losing it completely, crying with humiliation and anger. A stranger even hugged me(and I'm not a hugger!).

 

 

In seeing a different nurse in a few weeks, but I'm meeting with the practise manager next week to formally complain. I guess I'm asking what my rights are. I was utterly humiliated, but her lack of care make it all the worse. She was given ample opportunity to apologise,and whilst I would've been angry, I would've accepted it. Instead she treated me like I had the problem, the sense of humour failure. I'm absolutely furious that she made me feel the way she did. And that she even said it in the first place.

 

If your still reading, thank you. I would just like to know what I can reasonably expect to happen if I formally complain.

 

Thanks.

Edited by citizenB
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Thanks for reply. I don't really know what I would like to happen. I do know how I want to feel...understood. I want her to recognise why I am upset and to understand -and be big enough to admit that she was wrong however much she claims she was joking. i think that I want her formally reprimanded in some way, otherwise she could just take the attitude of getting away with it.

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Maybe meeting with the Practise Manager will help clarify thinng, Undoubtedly the PM will have spoken tto the nursse by now. If it was a Clinic being held that day, it would/should have been general knowledge. This does not lessen your embarrassment. I can understand a throw away line, but discretion could have been used.

 

 

Strictly, patient confidentiality has not been breached. For some this could be a moot point.

 

 

Having a smear test can stress you and something you would prefer to be done without every one knowing about it. The nurse should have been more sensitive to how you might feel.

 

 

I hope your meeting ends with a satisfactory resolution for you. The rest of the staff could have been more understanding, but I guess the pressure the staff are under these days is not conductive for this to happen.

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Maybe meeting with the Practise Manager will help clarify thinng, Undoubtedly the PM will have spoken tto the nursse by now. If it was a Clinic being held that day, it would/should have been general knowledge. This does not lessen your embarrassment. I can understand a throw away line, but discretion could have been used.

 

 

Strictly, patient confidentiality has not been breached. For some this could be a moot point.

 

 

Having a smear test can stress you and something you would prefer to be done without every one knowing about it. The nurse should have been more sensitive to how you might feel.

 

 

I hope your meeting ends with a satisfactory resolution for you. The rest of the staff could have been more understanding, but I guess the pressure the staff are under these days is not conductive for this to happen.

 

 

She said it was a smear clinic that afternoon, but it wasn't, smear clinics are Wednesday but I work then. Does that change anything?

And how has my confidentiality not been breached? I'm genuinely curious, not disbelieving you. Thanks

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I am not playing devil's advocate, but maybe there was/is a Smear Clinic that day. This you will be able to clarify with the Practise Manager.

 

 

The nurse called your name and made the remark to the gentleman, this could have been a throw away line and not relating to you, even though your name was called and this was what you were there for. if you hadn't heard your name being called and the remark, would you have been any the wiser?

 

 

I do understand how you feel about this, the nurse could have thought before she made the remark, but in a busy day, and how things have become pressurised in the GP's surgeries these days with x minutes allowed per patient, she just didn't consider how you might feel. I can't speak for the nurse and she could/should have apologised to you.

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Write down your complaint as if you were going to hand it in as a formal complaint. Keep it no more than 2 or 3 short paragraphs.

 

Walk away from it, do something else, then go back and re-read and amend at least 3 times.

 

This will both help you clarify your thoughts on it and put them in a clear form, hopefully reducing the impact of the purely (however justified) emotional content. The emotional content should be summarised by one line at the start, and one line (or a very short paragraph) at the end.

 

At the end of this you may still feel the need to complain, perhaps very forcefully, perhaps more mildly. At this juncture consider printing the complaint and submitting it to the practice manager.

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I can understand how you must be feeling and at the very least you would like an apology.

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Good suggestion Tobyjug. Writing it down will help clarify what you want and also how you felt at the time.

 

 

You can get a local resolution or you can make a formal complaint. The decision is yours. Either way the nurse will be spoken to. Do you want an (spoken) apology from her, or do you want a written apology?

 

 

I am betting next time, the nurse will think before she speaks. Professionalism and Discretion should be her watch words. Have you had a good relationship with her before this?

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Jim,

 

I'm a Practice Manager, this is a difficult one to be fair.

 

I agree with what's been said before, although there's no need to make your written complaint a masterpiece, I'd accept a concern on a crumpled up serviette if the patient felt strongly enough to put pen to paper.

 

Conniff has asked the key question, know what you'd like as a resolution when you go in, explain your concerns and then let the PM speak to those involved. I understand the sensitivity of any procedure, but when you deal in it all day every day it can lose it's edge a little bit. We talk openly and freely about every aspect of our patient's care amongst ourselves, it'd make a difficult job harder if we didn't. So, sometimes we can be a bit flippant about something that is genuinely worrying to others. It's never from a place of badness and I think what's happened here is just that, a throw-away comment. And, you're right; it shouldn't have happened and when it did it could have been handled better, something which on reflection I'm sure the nurse involved will realise.

 

Is it a full blown breach of confidentiality? I'm not sure, I'd take guidance from our concerns support staff if this were me dealing with it and certainly before responding to you fully or reprimanding those involved with any formal sanction.

 

Rightly or wrongly I'd imagine that this sort of thing happens far more often than it ought to, in fact I've probably done it myself in saying to a patient 'Oh, you're here for your flu jab Mrs.X, go on through and the nurse will do it now.' in reception whilst others were in ear-shot.

 

I think I can understand how you felt, on reflection that may change for you as you examine and discuss it more. I think it's certainly a development point for everyone in primary care.

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Just re-visiting this after a bit of thought and an interestingly similar part of a discussion with a patient this morning. They weren't happy with who they were seeing for whatever reason which they wouldn't elaborate on and like you, said 'well I'll just wait to be seen by x'. Unfortunately, X was completely fully booked already, was running 15 mins behind and had two extras put in to avoid having to do some home visits. I simply couldn't get this person in front of X in anything like a reasonable time.

 

General Practice is, for want of a better phrase, running on fumes sometimes when it comes to capacity and resource to see people. We're not being deliberately obstructive, in fact it's far 'easier' to give patients what they're asking for when we can, it's never our intention to antagonise a situation but we do have to be realistic. Sitting and waiting is one thing, but for an hour or more? No, I'd think it best to re-book, come in and start afresh.

 

Sometimes reception staff gather an almost comical reputation, I'm yet to encounter one of these mythical dinosaurs either as a colleague or in my own extensive experience as a patient. We are gatekeepers, we're given the challenging job of dealing with people when they're feeling their worst. I joke sometimes with patients about not asking how they are, they wouldn't be here if they were feeling any good. But, it's that perhaps that's too friendly, too familiar and not quite as professional as some people would like. We're a small, close-knit community and our waiting rooms bustle like the local coffee shops as people catch-up while they wait; I love that about our practice. But, it doesn't work for everyone.

 

I think now, having re-read your post a few times that you're rightfully very disappointed. I'm certain that the nurse involved will be upset to learn that she's made you feel like that and I've no reason to doubt that my colleague in your practice will address those concerns for you. It makes no real difference when there was a smear clinic being held, likewise it's well understood that almost all ladies are subject to routine screening but I can understand that you didn't want to be 'wearing the t-shirt' as you went in. I think it's been a poorly thought out attempt at humour with someone, especially a male, to say "don't worry, I didn't call you, I know you're not here for a smear test..." which should have ended in them both giggling a bit and saying "too right..." but has left you feeling exposed, it was poorly thought out - if at all and abysmally timed. The response from the nurse seems to indicate that she didn't share your level of concern with what she felt was a throw-away comment to alleviate someone else's embarrasment for going into the room when it wasn't their name that was called.

 

Sometimes it's best for us just to say sorry yet when you reached reception I fear it was already too late, so when they were unable to accomodate your requests things went from bad to worse. Go and sit with the PM, it's only by getting feedback that we can realise where the team can develop. Whilst this isn't like posting your full medical records to your employer without your consent, discussing them with your friends in a pub or leaving them on a bus you're understandably disappointed and I'm sure the PM will be interested to listen and understand.

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