Dame Fiona Caldicott, the National Data Guardian for Health and Care
“Doctors want to take the right steps to ensure that they are protecting the confidentiality of patients, and using information to make sure people receive the best care promptly.
“I commend the careful work that has gone into producing the GMC’s revised guidance, which is clear and thoughtful, and will help doctors navigate what can be a complex area.”
Dr Catherine Wills, MDU deputy head of advisory services
“Confidentiality is central to the relationship of trust between patients and doctors. Without assurances about confidentiality, patients may be reluctant to give doctors the information they need in order to provide good care. However, it is well accepted that a breach of confidentiality can sometimes be justified, legally and ethically, in the public interest. For example, when failure to do so may expose the patient or others to risk of death or serious harm.
“When faced with a police officer quoting the data protection act, or a solicitor referring to a court order, it can be all too easy to assume confidential patient information can be passed on without consent.
“However, the GMC’s guidance (paragraph 93) explains that ‘you must not disclose information to a third party … unless it is required by law, or ordered by a court, or can be justified in the public interest.’
“It is best to get expert advice early on whenever you are at all uncertain.”