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New Confidentiality guidance published by the GMC

25 January 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. 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. 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.
The General Medical Council (GMC) is an independent organisation that helps to protect patients and improve medical education and practice across the UK.
We decide which doctors are qualified to work here and we oversee UK medical education and training.
We set the standards that doctors need to follow, and make sure that they continue to meet these standards throughout their careers.
We take action when we believe a doctor may be putting the safety of patients, or the public’s confidence in doctors, at risk.
We are not here to protect doctors – their interests are protected by others. Our job is to protect the public.
We are independent of government and the medical profession and accountable to Parliament. Our powers are given to us by Parliament through the Medical Act 1983.
We are a registered charity (number 1089278 with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, and number SC037750 with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator), we have to show that our aims are for public benefit.
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The GMC Media Relations Office can be contacted on 020 7189 5454, email