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Ethical Issues - Confidentiality

Professional guidance

The General Medical Council (GMC) has published guidance on confidentiality, including supplementary guidance on specific situations such as reporting concerns about patients to the DVLA or DVA.  (Although they do not have the force of law, the courts do consider such guidance to have persuasive authority).

GMC: Confidentiality: 2009

‘There is a clear public good in having a confidential medical service. The fact that people are encouraged to seek advice and treatment, including for communicable diseases, benefits society as a whole as well as the individual. Confidential medical care is recognised in law as being in the public interest. However, there can also be a public interest in disclosing information: to protect individuals or society from risks of serious harm, such as serious communicable diseases or serious crime; or to enable medical research, education or other secondary uses of information that will benefit society over time.’ - GMC Para 36

The GMC has interactive case scenarios to illustrate how their guidance can be applied in practice. Some scenarios related to their guidance on confidentiality are available.

GMP in action

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has a section on confidentiality in their Code of Conduct. NMC.
The Code: Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives. 2008

Confidentiality: NHS Code of Practice 2003.

The code is a guide to required practice for those who work within or under contract to NHS organisations - it deals with confidentiality and patients’ consent to the use of their health records.

The code can be downloaded from the Department of Health website