Journal of Medical Law and Ethics (JMLE)

Confidentiality Issues in Practice: a View from the General Medical Council

Fionnula Flannery

The General Medical Council (GMC)’s guidance Confidentiality was last published in 2009. Since then the healthcare landscape in the four countries of the UK has continued to evolve and in 2015 the guidance will be reviewed to ensure that it remains compatible with the law and relevant to practice. This article summa-rises some of the practice issues that have been identified in enquiries to the GMC. These include the increasing emphasis on the use and integration of electronic health records systems to support patient care; the impacts of national policy debates around adult and child safeguarding; and ongoing debates about the use of health information for secondary purposes such as research, healthcare planning and audit. These issues raise questions and challenges, for example around models of consent, the definition and scope of public interest, and the relative weights that should be given to community needs and to individual autonomy that will need to be considered as part of the review of the guidance.


All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.’ – Hippocrates, 5th century BC

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