Clinical photography in the department of Medical Illustration at GOSH

This page explains about the clinical photography service in the department of Medical Illustration at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), why your doctor might ask for your child’s photograph to be taken and what to expect. It also describes the different ways that we use clinical photographs and how you can decide which uses you will or will not allow. 

Clinical photography is the taking of photographs to illustrate a medical condition. At GOSH, we photograph over 4,000 patients each year, and the images are used to record their medical conditions.

Why does my child need to be photographed?

Your child’s doctor will have asked us to take photos to show your child’s medical condition. In some cases, it is helpful to have ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs, particularly if your child is having an operation or treatment. For some conditions, it is helpful to have a series of photographs taken as your child grows older.

Photographs are also used for teaching or in publications, but we will always ask your permission before they are used in this way. This is explained in more detail later in this information sheet.

Who will take the photographs?

Clinical photography is based at GOSH. All our photographers are fully qualified and members of the Institute of Medical Illustrators. This means that they have to follow a strict code of conduct and update their skills regularly. Photos are usually taken in our studio but can also be taken in the operating theatre or wards.

Do I have to agree to my child being photographed?

No, although it may affect your child’s treatment if the doctor cannot have a visual record of your child’s condition. When you bring your child to the Clinical Photography department, you are agreeing for their photographs to be taken as part of their healthcare treatment and monitoring.

All our photos are stored securely on a computer database, which can only be accessed by people working at GOSH who have a secure username and password.

If we want to use your child’s photographs for a reason other than as part of their healthcare treatment and monitoring, we will ask you (or your child) to give permission by signing a consent form. This may be at the same time as the photographs are taken or it may be at a later stage.

For each type of use, we will ask you to say ‘yes’, or ‘no’.

  • If you tick ‘yes’, we will not seek confirmation from you before using the photographs for the purposes listed.
  • If you tick ‘no’, we will not use the photographs for the purposes listed and will not contact you again but you can contact us.

How might you use the photographs?

There are lots of different ways where it might be helpful to use photographs, each of which is described below:

  • Teaching (including research posters) at GOSH – This could include use of photographs or quotes in any teaching or presentation to GOSH staff, posters containing photographs or quotes and staff competency documents containing photographs or quotes or experience.
  • Teaching (including research posters) within a healthcare setting within the UK – This could include teaching sessions where photographs or quotes are included given at UK conferences for healthcare professionals or equivalents. It could also include posters presented at a similar conference or individual teaching sessions at other hospitals or professional organisations within the UK.
  • Teaching (including research posters) within a healthcare setting overseas – This is similar to the above category but for conferences or teaching sessions for healthcare professionals or equivalents held outside the UK.
  • Presentation (including research posters) to the general public – This could include use of photographs or quotes in any teaching or presentation where the general public are invited, for instance, support organisation family days or publicity events open to the public.
  • Presentation (including research posters) to journalists – This could include use of photographs or quotes in any document that will be accessed by journalists, for instance, press releases and publicity materials.
  • Publication in a book for healthcare professionals – This could include use of photographs or quotes in a book such as the GOSH handbook of nursing procedures.
  • Publication in a general interest book – This could include use of photographs or quotes in a book such as a history of GOSH or a television tie-in book.
  • Publication in a journal article for healthcare professionals – This could include photographs or quotes used to illustrate an article in a journal such as the British Medical Journal. Note: If the article reports a research project or study, it is likely that consent to include quotes will be covered by the research consent.
  • Publication in a general interest journal or magazine – This could include photographs or quotes included in an article in Women’s Weekly or the Sunday Times.
  • Publication in a family information sheet or leaflet – This could include inclusion of photographs or quotes to illustrate any information sheet produced by GOSH.
  • Publication in an online publication on the internet – This could include the electronic online version of a leaflet or information sheet, as well as online versions of press releases, journal articles, conference proceedings.
  • Use at a specific event – This could include presentation at a specific meeting, for instance, GOSH Trust Board or Annual General Meeting, as well as sharing photographs and quotes with other teams at GOSH.

Can I change my mind later?

Yes, you can change the purposes you agree to and the level of agreement at any point you have given for your child’s photographs. If you do not want them used for teaching or publication, please let us know as soon as possible.

In the first instance, please let the Clinical Photography department know so that we can alter our records. Please note that a photograph cannot be removed if already in the public domain, such as on the Internet, in a published article or leaflet.

What will happen when my child is photographed?

If your child is being photographed in our studio, your child’s doctor will ask you to come to the department on level 2 Southwood Building. When you arrive, please report in to our reception desk and then take a seat. We aim to take photographs as quickly as possible but please be aware that on busy clinic days there may be a short wait.

As soon as we can, the photographer will come to meet you in the reception area and take you and your child through to our studio. If you would prefer to have a photographer of the same gender as your child, please ask us. We have both male and female photographers in the team but if it is not possible to meet your request, we can offer a chaperone to stay in the studio with your child or rearrange the photographs for another day.

When you and your child are in the studio, the photographer will set up the background and lighting to get the clearest shot possible. Your child may be asked to sit down, stand up or lie down, depending on the part of the body being photographed.

They may need to remove some clothes or jewellery, or wear a headband. Occasionally, particularly if we are photographing inside your child’s mouth, we may have to use a lip retractor to keep their mouth open. We will always work as quickly as possible to get the best photograph.

What happens afterwards?

When the photographer has taken the clinical photographs required, you will be able to go home. The photographs are then annotated and loaded onto our database. In some cases, your child’s doctor will ask for printed copies to go in your medical notes.

Who will be able to see my child’s photos?

If the photos are in your child’s medical notes, only members of your child’s healthcare team will be able to see them. Access to photographs stored on our database is strictly controlled with usernames and passwords.

Compiled by:
Medical Photography team in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group
Last review date:
November 2020