Doctors told to report gun wounds to police

Doctors were told yesterday they must report to police incidents involving gunshot wounds, to protect the public.

New guidance from the General Medical Council (GMC), which weakens the doctor's duty of confidentiality to patients, comes after a spate of incidents which left nine people dead or injured last week.

Jon Otsemobor, 20, a Liverpool footballer, was among three people shot in a bar in Liverpool in the early hours of Sunday morning. Andre Shepherd, a DJ, was hit in the arms and back in a shooting in Reading on Friday. The same day David King, who was known to police, was gunned down with an automatic weapon in the quiet market town of Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire. On Tuesday, Marian Bates, a 64-year-old jeweller, was shot dead by a robber during a raid on her shop in Arnold, Nottingham.

The outbreak of gun crime led to calls for urgent action. The GMC came under pressure from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) more than a year ago after police were outraged when a surgeon removed a bullet from a patient and gave it to him as a memento. The patient then sought revenge on his assailant.

Jane O'Brien, head of standards at the GMC, said: "Acpo were concerned about one or two incidents where they hadn't been told of gunshot victims in hospital. We had a bit of a dialogue about how far we wanted to go. Clearly we did not want to discourage people in need from coming forward for treatment. But there was also an issue about the need to protect the public interest. The question was how to balance those things."

Existing guidance from the GMC, which sets ethical standards, says confidentiality is central to the trust between doctors and patients, and that it may only be breached, in the public interest "where the benefits to an individual or to society of the disclosure outweigh the public and the patient's interest in keeping the information confidential".

Under the new guidance doctors must inform the police when a patient seeks treatment for a gunshot wound. The GMC said this would trigger a visit from the police who would discuss with the doctor the circumstances of the injury.

Consent should be sought by the doctor to disclose the patient's identity, but if it is refused it may be revealed, and the patient's trust breached, if the doctor judges that it would "help prevent, detect or prosecute a serious crime".

Ms O'Brien said it was important that doctors protected the confidentiality of patients in cases where, for example, there had been a failed suicide attempt and no crime had been committed or other people put at risk.

"Acpo would have liked us to have said doctors should immediately disclose everything they know. But we were also concerned to protect patient confidentiality and for doctors not to become a supplementary police force. We think the balance will be accepted."

John Heyworth, president of the British Association of Accident and Emergency Medicine, said: "Patients presenting to emergency departments with gunshot wounds require the highest standards of clinical care and this will remain the absolute priority. However, we also have a responsibility to protect the public in the community."

Alan Green, Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, said: "This guidance ... will not only assist in the detection of [gun offences] but may assist in the prevention of further offences."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

    £35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

    £50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Co-Ordinator - FF&E

    £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior FF&E Project Co-ordinator is re...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor