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Making and using visual and audio recordings of patients

Scope of this guidance

5

This guidance covers visual and audio recordings of patients made and used in any circumstances where doctors work in a professional capacity.5 

This includes recordings made:

  • on healthcare premises2  within or outside the UK, and/or
  • as part of the assessment, investigation or treatment of patients’ condition or illness, and/or
  • for purposes such as teaching, training or assessment of healthcare professionals and students, research, or other health-related uses which are not designed to benefit the patient directly, described as ‘secondary purposes’ in this guidance.
1

This does not include recordings of people in their workplace designed to illustrate or identify occupational hazards.

2

This guidance does not cover CCTV recordings of public areas in hospitals and surgeries, which are the subject of separate guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

6

‘Recordings’ in this guidance means originals or copies of audio recordings, photographs, and other visual images of patients that may be made using any recording device, including mobile phones. It does not cover copies of written records.

Pathology slides

7

‘Recordings’ in this guidance does not include pathology slides containing human tissue (as distinct from an image of such a slide). Photographs of microscope slides may be made without consent for the purpose of care or treatment of a patient, or for a secondary purpose, provided that images are anonymised or coded3 before use for a secondary purpose, and always anonymised before they are published in the public domain. Where photographs of pathology slides are made for secondary purposes during a post-mortem examination, you should follow the advice in paragraph 51.

51

If you wish to make recordings of the body, organs or tissue during a post-mortem examination, for a secondary purpose such as teaching or research, you should seek consent at the same time as you seek consent to undertake the examination. If you have not foreseen this possibility, you may make recordings (including photographs of pathology slides) for secondary purposes without consent, provided that they do not include images that might identify the person.

3

Coded information – also known as pseudonymised information – is information from which individuals cannot be identified by the recipient, but which enables information about different patients to be distinguished, or information about the same patients to be linked over time; for example, to identify drug side effects. A ‘key’ might be retained by the person or service which coded the information so that it can be reconnected with the patient.