Recording Telephone Conversations
The principles to consider if you are thinking of recording telephone calls within your practice:
- You must not single out conversations with individual callers - i.e. you can't just record conversations with "difficult" patients, if you are going to record then this must be done as a matter of routine
- You must ensure that all callers know they are being recorded - this would normally be in the form of a message for all callers to the practice, information in the practice leaflet, and a poster in the waiting room
The GMC has produced guidance on this matter: Making and using visual and audio recordings of patients- guidance for doctors, May 2002.
Recordings of telephone conversations fall into a category of their own. Anyone using a telephone is subject to licence conditions under the Telecommunications Act 1984. They require you to make every reasonable effort to inform callers that their call may be recorded, and maintain a record of the means by which callers have been informed. Given the sensitive nature of calls to medical advice lines or similar services, you should pay particular attention to ensuring that callers are aware that their call may be recorded. You must not make intentionally secret recordings of calls from particular patients.
GPs who decide to record conversations should also bear in mind that they may be expected to disclose recordings in the event of a complaint or claim. The guidance clarifies that recordings made for clinical purposes form part of the clinical record, and should be retained for the necessary period and not disclosed without specific consent.
When making video or tape recordings of patients e.g. for training, research or audit purposes, GPs are advised to:
- Ensure patients understand the purpose of the recording, who will see it, the circumstances in which it will be shown and for how long it will be kept
- Ask patients if they want to withdraw or vary permission after the recording
- Give patients the option to see/hear the recording before it is used
- Guard against improper disclosure of recordings, as if they were medical records
- Make a note of all this in the medical records.