How do I anonymise my evidence?

Patient and colleague confidentiality

You must check every page of your evidence for patient or sensitive data. This data must be redacted before you submit it as part of your application. This is to meet your responsibility to patient confidentiality standards in Good medical practice.

What information do I need to redact?

  1. All patient identifying details. This includes:
    • names (first and last)
    • nicknames
    • addresses, including street names and postcodes
    • contact details
    • NHS and all unique reference numbers
    • any weblink addresses that link to a particular document or contain a unique reference number
    • reference numbers on letters
    • photos of patients (or eyes if close up on face).

Gender and Date of birth don’t need to be redacted. This information can be useful to the evaluators in assessing the range of patients seen by the applicant.

  1. Details of patients’ relatives
  1. Details of colleagues that you’ve assessed, written a reference for, or who have been involved in a complaint. This includes:
    • names (first and last)
    • GMC numbers 
    • contact details, such as phone numbers or email addresses
    • login codes and reference numbers of assessments
    • for evidence of a serious incident or a complaint, all doctors' names apart from your own must be redacted.

Please don’t redact colleague data from your other evidence such as your consultants who have assessed your WPBAs / Attended Meetings / Mentioned in letters or e-mails.

What areas of my evidence are likely to contain patient data?

  • Logbooks
  • Medical reports/case histories
  • Referral/clinic letters and e-mails correspondence
  • Patient lists
  • Meeting minutes
  • Thank you letters, e-mails and cards
  • Complaints / Incident Reports.

What areas of my evidence are likely to contain sensitive colleague data?

  • Participation in assessment and appraisal of others
  • Complaints / Incident Reports.

How do I redact my evidence?

Redacting electronic evidence

Read through your evidence thoroughly to identify any patient or sensitive data. Redaction of sensitive data must be permanent. It must be impossible to retrieve the data from the document after your redaction.

We recommend you use PDF redaction software such as Adobe Acrobat to redact your evidence. Redaction software can be found through popular search engines. Please don’t redact your evidence through alternative means such as covering text with text boxes or similar. It is likely that the underlying text will still be selectable.

It is important to remember to ‘apply’ your redactions after you have selected them in your PDF editor. Your workplace may have training and IT support for redacting documentation.

After you have applied redaction check that:

  • You cannot copy and paste the data from below the redaction
  • You cannot move boxes or shapes in front of the data to reveal it
  • You cannot view the redacted data in any way.

Only submit your evidence after checking the redaction is permanent.

Checking your evidence files

Data may be present in other ways.

  • Spreadsheets (xls file) - You must check the whole workbook for data. Check any hidden columns and hidden worksheet data have been removed
  • Embedded files / Links to files – This is where one file is accessible from inside another file. Remove any embedded files or links from evidence.

Redacting paper before scanning a document

Use a redaction pen or black crayon for redacting data on paper. This leaves a thick layer which is difficult to scan through. Do not use ballpoint pens / felt tip pens / correction fluid. These methods are more likely to reveal data after drying on the paper.

What happens if I fail to anonymise my evidence?

It’s your responsibility to make sure that your evidence has been anonymised. We accept no responsibility for checking that all your evidence has been anonymised. We won't anonymise any data on your behalf. If you don't anonymise your evidence this is likely to cause delays to your application.

If we identify personal information while we're checking your evidence we’ll:

  • delete the file from your application and ask you to resubmit it once it’s been fully redacted
  • inform the relevant royal college or faculty that your application included personal data.

If you submit further evidence which hasn’t been anonymised at the point we’re ready to send your application to the royal college or faculty for evaluation we’ll exclude these documents from your application.

If you don’t follow these requirements you may be in breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the patient confidentiality standards in Good medical practiceDomain 4 of Good medical practice is about maintaining trust. We may refer you to our Fitness to Practise directorate.