New confidentiality guidance for doctors

We've published our new guidance on confidentiality for all doctors practising in the UK.

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

We've made revisions to the guidance, last published in 2009, following an extensive consultation exercise.

What’s changed in the new guidance?

While the principles remain unchanged, the guidance 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.

Our Chief Executive, Charlie Massey, 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.’

He added: ‘We will produce additional helpful materials for doctors when the guidance comes into effect in April.’

Additional resources

Our new guidance is accompanied by a decision-making flowchart and explanatory notes to show how the guidance applies.

They illustrate situations doctors may encounter and find hard to deal with, such as: