Confidentiality

Medical Confidentiality
All consultations and medical records are subject to medical confidentiality. Which means information can generally only be shared with other people if you’ve given your consent.

The main exception to this is if you would expose yourself or others to risk of death or serious harm if information wasn’t disclosed, or in the case of certain criminal investigations. This is a very unusual situation and occurs rarely. Further details can be found at the General Medical Council.

It’s also my policy to send copies of all correspondence I write about you, to you, for your information so you know precisely what has been said and to ensure I have understood your situation correctly.

It’s normal medical practice - and often a condition of insurance companies - that your GP is made aware of appointment details and treatment plans, although, again, this is only with your consent. Sometimes issues arise during your treatment that you don’t want communicating with your GP, or that are important to phrase correctly. So please feel free to discuss this with me at your appointment.

Employer and Solicitor reports
Usually there will be no way an employer will find out details of problems without you being aware. These sorts of requests are rare, and no information will be forwarded without your permission. Even then we can discuss which elements of information you are happy to share (if any) so that control remains with you at all times.

Even if your appointment is paid for with employment related healthcare insurance, the insurer does not pass clinical information back to your employer.

If your appointment is at the request of your employer, or a solicitor or the courts, a written report of the consultation will be sent to them in the first instance. Again, this would only be with your knowledge and consent and you will usually be able to see a copy of the report before it’s forwarded to the party concerned.

Please feel free to discuss this with me in more detail during your appointment.

IT and information security
Increasingly, medical records at hospitals and GP surgeries are held electronically.

The security of these records is critical and as a result the electronic notes system I use has been carefully selected to be even more secure than traditional paper-based systems.

Records are hosted in state of the art datacentre facilities. Physical access is controlled both at the perimeter and at building ingress points by professional security staff utilising video surveillance, intrusion detection systems, and other electronic means.

The facility has achieved the following accreditations and certifications;
  • PCI DSS Level 1 (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)
  • ISO 27001 (Information Security Management System)
  • FIPS 140-2 (United States Federal Information Processing Standard).

It also participates in the Safe Harbour program assisting with meeting international privacy requirements, as required by the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), and runs completely under HTTPS. This means your data is 256-bit encrypted end-to-end during transfer.

Identifiable data is never emailed or transferred to unencrypted external storage media.

Written consent is required if you want to communicate via email as you should be aware this is not confidential. If sent electronically, letters will be as encrypted pdf files.

Video consultations using Skype or FaceTime are via a secure connection (128-bit SSL).

I am fully registered with the UK Information Commissioner as a Data Controller, under the provisions of the Data Protection Act.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
A psychiatrist is a fully qualified medical doctor specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems. This is similar, for example, to a cardiologist who completes their general medical training and then goes on to specialise in heart disease. As a psychiatrist is medically qualified they can also make a full diagnosis and investigate any physical causes that may have an impact on mental health. They can also prescribe medication if needed as well as talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

A psychologist, in comparison, completes an undergraduate degree in psychology, and may then specialise in one of many areas such as education, personality and psychometric testing, or mental health problems, which is known as clinical psychology. Psychologists will use talking treatments to treat patients but are unable to prescribe medication.

Can medication help me?
Medication can be very effective in addressing certain mental health problems, both in the short and long-term.

Conditions where medication can make a real difference include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, manic depression (bipolar disorder) and obsessive compulsive disorder. In the general public and popular media there’s often a lack of understanding and sensationalism when it comes to certain drugs and their effects. Which is why it’s important all the information about your medication is presented to you in an open and honest manner.

All medication has side effects - even the aspirin you take for a headache - and knowing about them will help you decide whether or not you want to try a particular treatment. The ultimate decision on any treatment is yours, based on advice that looks at both the risks and benefits. Careful drug selection and close monitoring by an expert, however, have been shown to minimise the risk of side effects and improve the likelihood of your medication being beneficial.

What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy refers to a wide range of talking therapies including:

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
Cognitive analytical therapy (CAT)
Dynamic therapy (psychoanalysis)
Family therapy
Interpersonal therapy
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

These talking therapies have been developed to address a wide range of problems, from illnesses such as schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression, through to personality problems.

Choosing a particular therapy depends on your preferences, and the research evidence on the effectiveness of a particular therapy for a specific problem.

What is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)?
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy or talking therapy that looks at the way you think and feel about things or situations at a particular moment. CBT can help you change the way you think (cognitive) and what you do (behavioural) and it can help you manage your problems in a more positive way. Unlike some of the other talking treatments, cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on the here and now and how to deal with your current situation rather than focusing on the causes of your distress or symptoms in the past.

CBT is particularly helpful with:

- Anxiety disorders (including panic attacks and post traumatic stress disorder)
- Depression
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Schizophrenia and psychosis
- Bipolar disorder