Cofton Medical Centre

Providing NHS Services

Clinical Photographs

What is a clinical photograph?

A clinical photograph is a photograph of a medical issue, e.g. a rash, to help a medical professional diagnose and treat conditions in their patients.

Why are clinical photographs used at the surgery?

There may be times when seeing a photograph of a particular problem, i.e. a mole or rash, may be very useful for a clinician in deciding how to provide you with the best possible care. This is even more true now that services are becoming more digital.

Providing photos can benefit both you and the surgery in a number of ways, including:

  • Reduced need to take time out of a busy schedule to visit the surgery
  • Provide reference points or a ‘timeline’ of your condition, allowing both us and you to see how a condition has improved or become worse over time.
  • Enabling us to provide you with safe, effective and efficient care.

There are various legal considerations that we must take into consideration when requesting, taking or processing clinical photographs and these are addressed in our Making and Using Clinical Recordings of Patients Policy. However the information contained on this page is here to help you understand what you are consenting to by sending in photographs, what shouldn’t be in a photograph, what makes a good clinical photograph and what happens to your photographs once we receive them.

Clinical photographs and consent

It is important that you understand that if you do not want to provide a clinical photograph then you do not have to – even if we have requested one.

The decision about whether you want to provide such photographs is entirely yours – that’s why we have created this page – to help you understand the benefits of clinical photography and how the photographs are stored and used within the surgery.

Any one in the surgery may request that you send in a clinical photograph to aid the clinician in their decision making for your care. The admin team have received training on when it is appropriate for them to request clinical photographs, i.e. skin conditions, at other times clinical photographs may be requested by a clinician.

By taking and sending the clinical photographs you consent to us storing them within your medical record as detailed in the section below ‘What happens to your photograph when you send it to us’

What shouldn’t be in a clinical photograph

It’s important to know that clinical photographs should not be taken of any intimate areas. Intimate areas can include, but are not limited to:

  • Breasts
  • Genitalia
  • The anus and surrounding areas

We recognise that patient’s may think of different areas as intimate according to their own beliefs, be it religious, cultural or for other reasons.

We will never request that you send a photograph of an intimate area and we want you to know if you feel uncomfortable sending a photograph that has been requested then you do not have to send anything that you do not want to.

Clinical photographs of intimate areas of under 18s

Clinical photographs of intimate areas of under 18s should never be taken and sent to the surgery. The taking and sending of such photographs can be considered a criminal offence.

No member of the staff of the surgery will ever request a photograph of an intimate area of a patient who is under 18 years old.

Tips for taking a good photograph

Ensuring you take a good, clear photograph means that the clinician is more likely to be able to use it to help deliver safe, appropriate care. Follow these tips to ensure you take a good quality photograph:

Before you start:

  • Check that your camera lens is clean.
  • If practical, find someone who can take the photo for you.
  • If someone else is taking the photo for you, make sure they are not casting a shadow over the area being photographed.
  • Move to a bright area with lots of natural light. Dark photos or photos with a flash or artificial light can change the colours in the picture and make it difficult for a clinician to see the problem.
  • Place the area to be photographed on a plain background (such as a plain towel or sheet) if possible.

Whilst taking the photos:

  • Try to keep a steady hand so the problem area is in focus.
  • Ideally use the main camera on the device you are using (try not to use the front facing ‘selfie’ camera as these produce lower quality images).
  • Take an ‘orientation’ photo from further away so the clinician can see where the problem area is.
  • Take a few closer up photos and if possible include a ruler, or an every day object such as a coin, so the clinician can understand the size of the problem area.
  • If you are using a camera on a smartphone, most phones allow you tap on the screen on the problem area to focus the camera on it.

Before you send the photos:

  • Check the photos are clear and not blurry or too dark. If they are, try and take them again.
  • Ensure there is nothing in the background that you do not want stored on your medical record.

What happens to your photograph when you send it to us

We use a secure messaging solution to send, receive and process photograph requests. The messaging solution is called AccuRx Chain and has been approved by NHS Digital and is on the Digital Care Services Framework which means the system complies with very high security standards set by the NHS.

We request your photographs by sending a text to your mobile phone, this contains a link for you to click on.

When you click on the link, you’ll be asked to select up to 5 photographs to upload and send to us.

When you click send we receive notification in the surgery, telling us you have sent in your photographs.

A member of staff saves these into your medical record ready for the clinician to view. The photographs are not seen by this member of staff, they are saved directly into the medical record.

Once the photographs are saved they form part of your medical record and are only accessed/viewed by those who need to see them as part of delivering healthcare to you. They are protected by the same laws and rights as the rest of your medical record. See the ‘Patient rights – your data’ section below for more information.

Patient rights – your data

As your photographs are stored in your medical record you have the same rights to access them as you do with the rest of your medical record. For more information on your rights regarding your medical record and data we hold please visit the Your Data and Information page.