Working with doctors Working for patients

What can I tell those close to the patient?

In most cases, discussions with those close to the patient will take place with the patient’s knowledge and consent, and doctors should disclose information in line with patients’ wishes (see paragraphs 35 to 38 of Confidentiality).

If a patient who has the capacity to make the decision refuses permission for information to be shared with a particular person or group of people, it may be appropriate to encourage the patient to re-consider that decision where sharing information may be beneficial to the patient’s care and wellbeing. Ultimately, though, the doctor should usually respect the patient’s wishes if no one else is at risk of serious harm and the patient has capacity to make the decision. See paragraph 37 of Confidentiality.

If a patient lacks capacity to make the decision, doctors may disclose personal information if it is of overall benefit to the patient. It is important to support and encourage the individual to be involved, as far as they want and are able, in decisions about disclosure of their personal information. See the FAQ ‘what if the patient lacks capacity?’ and paragraphs 41 to 49 of Confidentiality.

Confidentiality is not in itself a reason to refuse to listen to those close to the patient and doing so can be helpful to the patient’s care, for example by providing additional insights into a patient’s condition. However, there can be other reasons for not listening to the views of close family and friends – for example if the patient has specifically asked the doctor not to listen to particular people. See paragraphs 39 and 40 of Confidentiality.