We recognise that this is a very difficult and worrying time for doctors. Our professional standards provide a framework for ethical decision making in a wide range of situations. They should be followed as far as practical in the circumstances. We're regularly updating our advice for doctors as the situation develops.
Confidentiality: good practice in handling patient information
Confidentiality is an important legal and ethical duty but it is not absolute.
This guidance gives you eight principles that you should apply to your practice. It provides a framework to help you decide when you can share information. And helps you to think about why you are sharing the information. This may be for the direct care or protection of the patient, to protect others or for another reason. It also has a handy flowchart which you can use to help you decide whether to share the information.
The guidance includes a section on managing and protecting information. This has helpful advice on doctors’ personal responsibilities for protecting patient information. It also gives advice on when you can share information after a patient has died.
This guidance came into effect 25 April 2017. It was updated on 25 May 2018 to reflect the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018.
We also have six pieces of shorter guidance which explain how to apply the principles of Confidentiality to specific situations doctors often encounter or find hard to deal with. These are:
- Confidentiality: disclosing information for education and training purposes
- Confidentiality: disclosing information for employment, insurance and similar purposes
- Confidentiality: disclosing information about serious communicable diseases
- Confidentiality: patients’ fitness to drive and reporting concerns to the DVLA or DVA
- Confidentiality: Reporting gunshot and knife wounds
- Confidentiality: responding to criticism in the media
Download the guidance
You can download the guidance in English or Welsh.