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GMC Published New Confidentiality Guidance

On 25th January 2017, the General Medical Council (GMC) has published a new confidentiality guidance that revises and expands the existing guidance on confidentiality for all doctors practising in the UK.

The new revised guidance “Confidentiality: good practice in handling patient information” is designed to help doctors better understand their responsibilities when handling patient information in their everyday practice. In 2009, the GMC’s confidentiality guidance had last been published, with the council reviewing all of its guidance to clinicians about every 5 years. From 25th April 2017, the new guidance will come into effect following an extensive consultation process.

According to the GMC, Doctors should always respect their patient confidentiality but be prepared to break it in certain situations when right in the public interest or by not doing so, could expose others to a risk of death or serious harm.

Though the principles of the present GMC guidance remain unchanged, it now explains:

  • The situations in which doctors can trust on implied consent to share patient information for direct care.
  • The public safety responsibilities of doctors, including when to make disclosures in the public interest.
  • The importance of sharing information for direct care, identifying the multi-disciplinary and multi-agency context doctors work in.

The GMC has also issued a decision-making flowchart and descriptive notes to show how the new confidentiality guidance applies to certain conditions that doctor may meet, such as:

  • Disclosing Information about serious communicable diseases
  • Disclosing information for employment, insurance and similar purposes
  • Responding to criticism in the media
  • Reporting gunshot and knife wounds

The chief Executive of the GMC, Charlie Massey said the GMC understands that doctors want more help and guidance on some of the complexities of confidentiality, and so as well as the revised guidance GMC are also publishing some supporting descriptive notes.

The council has also confirmed that it will publish extra helpful resources for doctors and patients when the guidance comes into effect in April 2017.

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