Why won’t my GP tell me my blood type?

Pricewatch readers’ queries: It's a legal quagmire, so medical practices just say no

A reader contacted us with an interesting query in connection with blood. She needs to know what blood type she is ahead of a trip to a hazardous part of the world, so she rang her GP practice to find out. “I have had the same GP for a long time and have had multiple blood tests carried out, so I figured there wouldn’t be a problem.”

She figured wrong. When she called the practice a receptionist explained to her that in spite of all the tests, the GP’s practice did not have this most basic of information on file. “She also told me that even if the GP did have the information, the practice was not authorised by the HSE to give it to me. I was told I would need to contact my health insurance provider with a view to getting a separate test done.”

The story seemed unusual to us on multiple levels, so we resolved to find out more. We wanted to find out why a GP who has been testing a person’s blood for many years couldn’t tell them their blood type, and we also wanted to find out if the Health Service Executive had really imposed a ban on doctors giving patients this important information.

We made contact with a GP and with the HSE, and it turns out it is not really that simple. First, when a doctor sends your bloods off to be tested, labs do not routinely test for type; this is because they consider such a test a waste of time as the only place where the information is necessary is a hospital setting, and no hospital will rely on the word of a patient when it comes to something as crucial as blood type, so they carry out the tests themselves.

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A GP also explained that even if a practice knew the information, a receptionist would not be authorised to give it out over the phone because by doing so the practice could open itself up to litigation – if, say, the receptionist, gave out the wrong information or if the patient misheard it. It is easier for practices to just say no.

However, the HSE told us that there is no prohibition of any kind on GPs providing the information if they have it.

Clamping problem

A reader called Liam got in touch because of a problem he has been having with Apcoa Parking. “On September 9th last, I was clamped in [Cork] at 9.50pm. My car was clamped for allegedly parking with ‘no permit visible contrary to the parking rules at this location’. As there was no signage in the area that indicated a permit was required, I was more than a little upset and inconvenienced but was hopeful of getting my €125 clamping fee back.”

He says the signage on either side of his car said: “Customer parking only Monday to Saturday 8.30am to 6.30pm. Overnight parking not permitted. Max two hours.”

“I had parked at 8.15pm and was clamped 90 minutes later. The signs do not state that parking is prohibited outside of the stated hours.”

He says the company could not unclamp him on the night so he had to make arrangements for himself, his wife and two friends to get home and then go back there in the morning to be unclamped.

“I appealed to Apcoa straight away and received a response 54 days later (not 28, as promised on their website) saying my appeal was rejected, as at the time of the alleged offence “no valid permit was clearly on display on the dashboard”. I was given the option to appeal that decision to the Independent Parking Appeals Service for a fee of €20. I did this and my appeal was successfully upheld. I received notification from Ipas on December 12th that Apcoa will process a refund in due course.”

Since then, he has been on to Apcoa many times – on January 3rd, 5th, 16th, 17th and 27th – and it has still not refunded his money. It is now more than 20 weeks since he was wrongly clamped.

We contacted Apcoa and received the following statement. “As member of the Irish Parking Association, Apcoa signs up to a two-stage appeal process and we abide by the decisions of the Independent Parking Appeals Service. Although we normally issue refunds within two weeks, [Liam’s] refund request was unfortunately not processed in a timely manner. A cheque has now been issued, and we apologise to him for the delay.”