Patients should be able to disclose information in a safe and private environment.

Relatives, friends and third parties, e.g. police should not be informed of what occurs within the consultation.

There are specific instances where confidentiality can be breached and these are referred to in the General Medical Council’s (GMC) guidance for doctors [9].

Before breaching confidentiality, the patient’s consent should first be sought. If consent is refused you should discuss the matter further with your Trust legal department and your medical defence union.

Breaching confidentiality

Examples of instances where confidentiality may be breached include disclosures:

  • Required by law, e.g. notification of a communicable disease
  • Relating to the courts or litigation, e.g. specific requests from a judge for relevant information
  • Relating to statutory regulatory bodies, e.g. DVLA, where a patient poses a threat to the public
  • In the public interest, e.g. patient has disclosed involvement in serious criminal activity such as terrorism
  • To protect the patient or others, e.g. patient expresses homicidal intent towards a specific person