How would you feel if a patient asked to record their consultation? Leo Briggs explains why you shouldn't jump to conclusions.

The DDU regularly receives calls from members who are asked by a patient if a consultation or procedure can be filmed. It's easy to assume the worst if a patient wants to record you at work but it doesn't always follow that they're trying to catch you out or that a complaint or claim is inevitable. 

Indeed, a recording of a consultation could be to your advantage if it helps ensure the patient doesn't miss anything important. There's often a lot to discuss, and patients might not always take in what they are told by healthcare workers.

However, if they are able to watch the recording in their own time, it may help them understand the risks and benefits of the different treatment options and make an informed decision about the treatment they want, which makes life easier for them and you.

There is no legal barrier to your patients recording their time in the dental chair, as they are only processing their own personal information. Section 36 of the Data Protection Act 1998 states: 'Personal data processed by an individual only for the purposes of that individual's personal, family or household affairs (including recreational purposes) are exempt from the data protection principles and the provisions of Parts II and III'. You can ask that the patient respects your confidentiality and request that the recording is not shared with others or posted online. 

Before any operative procedure is recorded, especially one where blood may be seen, it would be sensible to describe the details to the patient beforehand so that they are not shocked to see how the procedure is carried out.

Any recording should not hamper your ability to carry out the procedure in a safe and hygienic environment so you may need to discuss the limitations of how anything could be recorded with the patient beforehand.

Covert recordings

If you suspect that a patient is covertly recording you, your duty of care means you might not be justified in automatically refusing to treat them. A confrontational response may easily rebound on you and further damage your relationship. 

Photo credit: Getty

A more pragmatic (and potentially disarming) approach would be invite the patient to record the consultation openly and ask them whether you can have a copy of the recording which can then become part of their dental records. 

In seeking their consent to this you should reassure them that the recording will be stored securely by the practice and only used for this purpose. If you are concerned that the patient's actions are a sign they do not trust you, you may want to discuss this with them later. 

Finally, bear in mind that while recordings (even those made covertly) can be admitted as evidence of wrongdoing by the GDC and in court, they can also prove the opposite. In other words, if you have acted ethically and professionally, you should have no reason to be worried.

This page was correct at publication on 17/05/2016. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.