The GMC has revised its guidance on confidentiality, with changes coming into effect on 25 April. Here's what you'll need to look out for.

Confidentiality is the cornerstone of medical practice, and a vital element of the relationship of trust between doctors and patients.

The duty of confidentiality can pose a challenge to doctors and medical students, however, as in the course of practice you are likely to come across a number of scenarios where lines become blurred and decisions whether or not to disclose information become more difficult.

You might already be familiar with the GMC's confidentiality guidance, which sets out principles of confidentiality for doctors to follow and the professional values and skills they need to navigate complex situations.

The GMC has now updated this guidance, with the 2017 version coming into effect from 25 April.

The revised version takes into account the changing nature of the way doctors work today – for example, with a stronger emphasis on online patient records, rather than physical files; IT systems allowing wider access to records for those involved in a patient's care; changing organisational structures, and other factors which could raise new questions relating to patient confidentiality.

The new guidance also expands its advice on issues such as:

  • When is implied consent enough for sharing information?
  • Where does a doctor's duty to protect the public interest intersect with the duty for patient confidentiality?
  • How can confidential patient information be effectively managed and protected?
  • How can confidentiality be properly protected in teaching and training records?

Whether you're in class or on clinical placement, questions about confidentiality are bound to arise. Get to know the GMC's new guidance and gain a greater understanding of where your duty of confidentiality lies.

This page was correct at publication on 21/02/2017. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.