BMA guidance

Confidentiality and health records toolkit

Our toolkit is your starting point to address difficult decisions arising out of the duty to protect confidentiality.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Tuesday 8 September 2020
Topics: Ethics
Justice scales article illustration

The toolkit covers general principles about confidentiality, as well as specific areas relating to children and young people, adults who lack capacity and deceased patients.

This guidance is for all doctors, NHS trusts and health boards and medical schools. Doctors can download it and adapt it to suit their own requirements.


What you'll get from this guide

  • Confidentiality and disclosure of health information toolkit.
  • Legal and ethical principles of confidentiality.
  • Handling requests for disclosure of confidential information.


How to use this guide

This guidance will provide you with the key legal and ethical considerations you need to take into account when making decisions on confidentiality. It signposts to other sources of support and information.

It is not a set of rules or instructions, or a substitute for careful reflection and discussion with colleagues. You can seek additional advice on specific dilemmas from the BMA’s ethics department, the GMC, or your medical defence organisation.

  • An introduction to confidentiality
  • Assessing patients' capacity and determining best interests
  • Secondary uses of patient data
  • Taking recordings and photos of patients
  • Keeping information secure
  • Sources of confidentiality rights and protections
  • Making legal and statutory data disclosures
  • Children and young people
  • Adults who lack capacity
  • Dual responsibilities
  • Information for non-medical purposes
  • Serious communicable diseases
  • Public interest
  • Deceased patients' health records