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New confidentiality guidance published by the GMC

Press Release

25 Jan 2017

The General Medical Council (GMC) has today (Wednesday 25 January) published revised, expanded and reorganised guidance on confidentiality for all doctors practising in the UK.

This refreshed, revised and restructured guidance on confidentiality will help doctors better understand their responsibilities when handling patient information in their everyday practice.

GMC Chief Executive Charlie Massey

The guidance – Confidentiality: good practice in handling patient information – comes into effect from Tuesday 25 April 2017.

Revisions have been made to the guidance, last published in 2009, following an extensive consultation exercise. While the principles of the current GMC guidance remain unchanged, it now clarifies:

  • The public protection responsibilities of doctors, including when to make disclosures in the public interest.
  • The importance of sharing information for direct care, recognising the multi-disciplinary and multi-agency context doctors work in.
  • The circumstances in which doctors can rely on implied consent to share patient information for direct care.
  • The significant role that those close to a patient can play in providing support and care, and the importance of acknowledging that role.

The GMC has also published a decision-making flowchart and explanatory notes to show how the new guidance applies to situations doctors may encounter and find hard to deal with, such as reporting gunshot and knife wounds or disclosing information about serious communicable diseases.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said: ‘This refreshed, revised and restructured guidance on confidentiality will help doctors better understand their responsibilities when handling patient information in their everyday practice.

‘We know doctors want more support and guidance on some of the complexities of confidentiality, and so as well as the revised guidance we are also publishing some supporting explanatory notes. We will produce additional helpful materials for doctors when the guidance comes into effect in April.’

The GMC’s new app – My GMP – signposts to the revised guidance today. When the guidance comes into effect in April, additional resources and case studies will be published for doctors and patients.

Notes to editors

Confidentiality: good practice in handling patient information is available on the GMC’s website from today Wednesday 25 January 2017. The existing guidance, Confidentiality, came into effect in 2009.

Doctors should continue to follow this until the updated version comes into effect on Tuesday 25 April 2017.

All GMC guidance is reviewed approximately every five years to take into account key changes to legislation, the expectations of patients, the medical profession and the wider environment. Confidentiality is one of the most popular topics doctors proactively contact us about.