Revised confidentiality ethical guidance comes into effect

All doctors practising medicine in the UK will be expected to follow revised, expanded and restructured ethical guidance on confidentiality.

Confidentiality: good practice in handling patient information has been updated following an extensive consultation exercise, and is now more explicit than previously published guidance about working with patients.

It now clarifies:

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

"Confidentiality is at the heart of medical practice but it should not be a barrier to good care. That’s why in this publication we emphasise the importance of talking, and listening, to patients about what should happen to information about them. "

Charlie Massey

GMC Chief Executive


Our refreshed materials also include specific supporting information about situations involving patient confidentiality that doctors may find hard to deal with. These include reporting concerns to the DVLA, reporting gunshot and knife wounds and disclosing information about serious communicable diseases. Other practical guidance includes a decision-making flowchart and interactive case studies.