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GMC confidentiality guidance 2017
  1. Jane Simpson
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jane Simpson, Department of Paediatrics, University College Hospital, London NW1 2BU, UK; jane.simpson12{at}nhs.net

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Information about current guideline

‘Confidentiality: good practice in handling patient information’1 is the updated guidance on confidentiality from the General Medical Council (GMC), which came into effect in April 2017. It was published alongside explanatory notes on how the guidance applies in certain challenging situations, such as reporting concerns to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), reporting gunshot wounds and responding to criticisms in the media. The guidance is essential reading for all medical professionals because of their duty to practise in line with GMC standards and guidance. See box 1 for links to the full guideline and associated resources.

The new guideline aims to be more user-friendly than existing guidance. It makes a clearer distinction between direct care and other uses of patient data: information sharing between health professionals for the purpose of direct care is recognised as essential and predominantly facilitated by the concept of implied consent, whereas disclosures for other reasons must be ethically and legally justified if explicit consent has not been obtained. A clear framework for decision making is provided, which can be used to guide doctors when considering disclosures for the purposes of direct care, for the protection of patients or others and for all other purposes. The new guideline also sets out the responsibilities of all doctors for managing and protecting patient information.

For professionals working with children, this new guidance must be seen as complimentary to the existing GMC guidance on confidentiality relating to children, the former in the context of child protection, the latter more generally: ‘Protecting children and young people: the responsibilities of all doctors’,2 and ‘0–18 years: guidance for all doctors’.3

Previous guideline

Previous GMC guidance on confidentiality was published in 2009,4 and consisted of core guidance plus seven explanatory statements explaining how these principles applied in certain common or …

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