Headlines: June 9th, 2005

Hospital doctors fear patient confidentiality is being put at risk because key staff do not have adequate office space. The British Medical Association says of the 12,500 staff and associate specialist doctors working alongside consultants and junior doctors in hospitals, many have a large administrative workload but do not have their own offices.The staff have called for minimum standards of access to office space as a matter of urgency. Dr Elizabeth Bailey of the BMA’s Staff and Associate Specialists Committee told a conference that sensitive information about patients was being left in areas where it could be viewed because the doctors involved did not have adequate office space where documents could be kept.

She added, “If you don’t have your own office, you have to do your paperwork wherever you can find the room – in the coffee room, on the wards, in corridors. Without a secure working environment it’s very hard to ensure that no-one else can see sensitive information. I’ve met hundreds of SAS doctors and this is a very common problem.”

She was supported by Dr Awani Choudhary, who said associate specialist doctors could work for decades at a hospital, even becoming experts in their field, without ever getting their own office. He said that as well as making the staff feel undervalued, this made it much harder to do administrative work.

“We have to write letters to patients in other people’s offices, in the doctors’ mess rooms, in the operating theatre, at home, or even in the corridor. That’s pretty worrying when you consider how sensitive the information we’re dealing with is,” he said.