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Methodological limitations posed by the Data Protection Act in research involving medical practitioners: a study into doctors’ career and retirement choices

Aims This paper aims to highlight the obstacles typically encountered as a result of the Data Protection Act when using medically qualified practitioners as research participants. Method As part of the ‘Doctors’ Career and  Retirement Choices’ study, 47 medically qualified individuals have been interviewed, 21 have participated in a questionnaire pilot study and 534 in the main questionnaire study. The limitations encountered concerning data protection throughout the research,have been logged and are presented in this paper.Results During the study’s progress, a number of difficulties arising from The Data Protection Act have been found relating to doctors’ participation in the research. They largely include difficulties in accessing doctors’ contact details, problems with individual interpretation of the Act, and anxiety around the sharing of data being detrimental to the study. Solutions to the difficulties encountered include recruiting samples via websites, holding individual contact details in the public domain and via colleagues’ personal networks. Conclusions While data protection presents obstacles to conducting research where doctors are the key sample group, there are effective methods of overcoming them.


Catherine Smith

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