The high-handed approach to patients' rights to privacy and confidentiality goes well beyond our researchers and hospitals (news, page 4, 2 November; letters, 16 November).

In a recent project on the management of discharge medication for patients leaving hospital, local community pharmacies were contacted to seek details of patient medication records held by them.

An inquiry about whether those patients had been informed of the process, and had given consent to this disclosure, was met with a letter from the relevant GP giving 'his' consent for disclosure from records for 'his' patients.

Such fundamental lack of understanding of data protection legislation and the demands of the Human Rights Act is disturbing, particularly as the vast majority of such patients - given an adequate explanation - would probably consent to disclosure. All we have to do is ask.

Professor J Wingfield School of pharmaceutical sciences Nottingham University