Review patient confidentiality to support patients' loved ones and prevent domestic abuse
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In many cases in which a loved one is displaying mental health problems, the general practitioner (GP) is the first point of contact. Too often, however, when family and friends attempt to bring this to the GP's attention, discussion of the issue is overruled by patient confidentiality.
Families living with and trying to support a loved one with mental health issues know how difficult it can be and how often cases of domestic abuse can arise, whether verbal, physical or otherwise. Living day in, day out in such an environment is sure to have a detrimental effect on the entire household as well as the sufferer's social circles, which can feed into forming their own mental health problems, such as anxiety and PTSD, while also pushing them towards ill-advised means of coping, for instance substance abuse.
At the time, households can exist in a state of shock or denial, trying to keep their heads above water; this is especially true of families with young children. The last thing you want to see is your loved one sectioned, thus intervention at an early stage is crucial.
Despite being key to the protection of an individual and the preservation of their rights, patient confidentiality must be readdressed to allow for loved ones to be heard and taken seriously. It should also allow for them to be informed of any change in medication, as this too can have an impact on a patient's behaviour, sometimes seeing them revert back to abusive behaviour or other times driving them to more manic states.
It is true that GPs have a duty of care to their patient, however they also have a duty of care to the whole family. Regardless of a patient's age, a system must be put in place to accommodate for the benefits of having an advocate or an adviser, especially in matters of mental health.
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