The General Medical Council is looking to draw up a formal code of conduct between doctors and journalists who film documentaries and news reports in hospitals.
The doctors’ regulatory body said an increase in “fly-on-the-wall” medical documentaries in recent years meant clearer guidelines were needed to protect patients.
It has launched a consultation with the media and the medical profession about the proposed rules, which focus on the issues of patient consent and confidentiality.
“Confidentiality is central to trust between doctors and patients,” the GMC said.
“Without assurances about confidentiality, patients may be reluctant to seek medical attention or to give doctors the information they need in order to provide good care.”
The draft guidelines require doctors to obtain full consent from their employer and individual patients before any footage can be shot on health care premises.
Doctors would be required to order producers to stop filming if at any point they believed the recording was “unduly intrusive” or damaging to a patient’s privacy and dignity.
Where a patient lacks the capacity to give consent to filming, medical staff must be satisfied that the recording is in the public interest before letting journalists in.
And on filming patients who later die in hospital, the GMC’s proposed code states: “If the patient is identifiable, you will need to consider whether the patient’s family should be consulted.
“Where a recording includes information about a genetic condition, or other information about the patient’s family, the patient’s family may have a right to prevent the use of the recording.”
GMC member Ros Levenson said filming television broadcasts around hospital patients was “a very sensitive area”.
“There continues to be a steady stream of hospital-based documentaries in the media and the guidance will ensure that doctors are clear of what is expected from them in these situations and that patients are fully aware of what they can expect from their doctor,” she said.
The GMC is inviting news outlets to respond to the consultation before 25 September at www.gmc-uk.org.