The Home Office recommends using the 101 non-emergency police number (although the report can be made in writing). Provide your name, contact details, role and place of work, the girl's name, age and address, and why the report is being made. You should also tell the police what safeguarding action has been undertaken, or will be undertaken, and check your safeguarding lead is updated. Best practice would be for this to be done by the end of the next working day, but the act requires that the notification is made within 28 days of the discovery.
If you're told by a third party that a girl has undergone FGM, the mandatory obligation to report doesn't apply. You should, however, ensure you follow local safeguarding procedures.
Road traffic accidents
Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 allows the police, under certain circumstances, to require information from anyone, including doctors, which may lead to the identification of a driver alleged to have committed a road traffic offence. It is an offence to fail to comply with such a request. You are only required to give information to allow identification of the driver, and this would not normally involve disclosure of any clinical details.
In some circumstances the police can require disclosure of information via court order or production order. As its unlikely you will have seen such a document before, you may wish to seek advice to check the document is valid and applicable to you before disclosing.
It’s not always straightforward
Requests for patient information should always be considered carefully. Beyond these few situations where you are obliged to give information to the police, there are other scenarios where disclosure may be in the public interest so seek advice if you are not sure. These decisions can be complex and subtle. For example, in our experience the police often quote data protection legislation which permits disclosure of patient information for the purposes of the detection, prevention and prosecution of crime but the law does not require it.
In NHS Trusts, there will be a Caldicott Guardian who can guide you. In primary care, every practice will have a data protection officer who may able to help. As an MDU member you can always seek advice from us on our 24 hour helpline where our experienced team will assist you with your specific query.
Dr Sally Old
Sally was a consultant clinical oncologist before joining the MDU in 2006. She trained in hospital medicine before specialising in cancer treatment, including radiotherapy. With a main interest in thoracic oncology, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, her clinical role involved producing reports for solicitors and the local Coroners. This sparked her desire to know more about medico-legal medicine. Sally has an LLM in Medical Law and Ethics from the University of Kent. She is a Member of the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine and sits on its Revalidation Committee.
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