Working with doctors Working for patients

When can I rely on implied consent?

Consent may be explicit or implied.

  • Explicit consent is given when the patient actively agrees, either orally or in writing, to the use or disclosure of information.
  • Implied consent refers to circumstances in which it would be reasonable to infer the patient agrees to the use of the information, even though this has not been directly expressed.

We advise it is reasonable to rely on implied consent for direct care if all of the following are met.

  • You are accessing the information to provide or support the individual patient’s direct care, or are satisfied that the person you are sharing the information with is accessing or receiving it for this purpose.
  • Information is readily available to patients, explaining how their information will be used and that they have the right to object.
  • You have no reason to believe the patient has objected.
  • You are satisfied that anyone you disclose personal information to understands that you are giving it to them in confidence, which they must respect.

The key principle is ‘no surprises’. If in doubt, ask for consent unless it is not practicable to do so. You can find more detailed guidance at paragraphs 27 to 33 of Confidentiality.