My first job, many, many years ago, when I was still a naïve teenager, I was a YTS trainee Medical Receptionist in a local medical practice.

Usually, at lunchtimes I’d nip across to the local bakery to buy a sandwich for my lunch as did a number of my colleagues.

I recall a particular occasion while I was on my way back from the bakery, I bumped into someone I knew in the street, that I hadn’t seen for a while. We stopped to chat for a few minutes, exchanging the usual pleasantries before going in opposite directions as I headed back to work.  I’d ended the conversation with – “I’ll see you later”.

The following day I was summoned into the Practice Managers office and read the riot act for an alleged breach of confidentiality. I was completely thrown as I had no idea what she was talking about, I was very aware of the importance of confidentiality and was certain she had make a terrible mistake.

My manager explained that she had received a complaint from someone I had been chatting to in the street recently,  They complainant had an appointment in the afternoon on the same day we had stopped to chat and they had assumed when I said, “I’ll see you later”, I was referring to seeing them later when they came to the surgery for their appointment, which in their opinion was a breach of confidentiality.

I was asked if I was aware that the complainant had an appointment the same day. Given I hadn’t spoken to anyone else, it wasn’t difficult to work out who had raised the complaint. The answer was Yes, I was aware they had an appointment, of-course I was, because it was my job to know. I explained the comment “I’ll see you later” was just a comment which I often use in place of goodbye and wasn’t in anyway related to the individual concerned.  I obviously couldn’t prove that it wasn’t my intention, nor could it be proved that it was, however an important Lesson was learned.

As a result of the incident I accepted that I needed to be mindful of my terminology and to choose my wording carefully in future to ensure I wasn’t misinterpreted. That was the end of the matter as far as the Manager was concerned, who let me away with a stern warning but made it very clear to me that if it ever happened again it could very well cost me my job.

Currently I am seeing post after post on Social Media feed, TV and newspapers by medical practices identifying patients in the community who have received Covid 19 vaccines, and I have to ask, Why? What’s changed? This is not usual practice. We don’t normally see posts informing us ‘Here’s a photo of Mr or Mrs X,  our eldest resident in town receiving medical treatment!  Surely, if saying “I’ll see you later” to someone  who has an appointment later in the day is considered a breach of confidentially, posting a photograph identifying a patient receiving any kind of treatment surely must be. If it isn’t, why isn’t it?  because I honestly can not see the difference.


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