Working with doctors Working for patients

The principles of confidentiality

28. Confidentiality is central to the trust between doctors and patients and an essential part of good care. Without assurances about confidentiality, children and young people, as well as adults, may be reluctant to get medical attention or to give doctors the information they need to provide good care.

29. Teenagers may be particularly concerned about keeping confidential information from their parents, schools, children’s services, the police and other statutory agencies. Young people, parents and other adults receiving psychiatric care, and other vulnerable people might have similarly increased concerns about sharing confidential information.

30. But sharing information appropriately is essential to providing safe, effective care, both for the individual and for the wider community. It is also at the heart of effective child protection. It is vital that all doctors have the confidence to act on their concerns about the possible abuse or neglect of a child or young person.

31. Confidentiality is not an absolute duty.9 You can share confidential information about a person if any of the following apply.

a. You must do so by law19 or in response to a court order.20

b. The person the information relates to has given you their consent to share the information (or a person with parental responsibility has given consent if the information is about a child who does not have the capacity to give consent).21

c. It is justified in the public interest – for example, if the benefits to a child or young person that will arise from sharing the information outweigh both the public and the individual’s interest in keeping the information confidential.