BMA guidance

Confidentiality and health records toolkit

Our toolkit is your starting point when considering sharing confidential information. It covers sharing confidential information for the direct care of your individual patient and sharing for other reasons.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Thursday 1 July 2021
Topics: Ethics
Justice scales article illustration

The toolkit covers general principles about confidentiality, as well as specific sections about 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

  • Ethical and legal principles of confidentiality.
  • The circumstances when confidential information can be shared.
  • Handling requests from third parties.


How to use this guide

This guidance will provide you with the key legal and ethical considerations you need to take into account when deciding to share confidential information.

It does not aim to be definitive guidance on all issues surrounding confidentiality and it points you to useful guidance from other bodies, such as the GMC, that you should use alongside the guidance.

You can use each section alone, although there are some areas of overlap. The first section is relevant to all disclosures of confidential information.

  • Principles of confidentiality
  • Disclosing information with consent
  • Adults lacking capacity
  • Deceased patients
  • Disclosures required by law
  • Public interest disclosures
  • Disclosure without consent
  • Requests from third parties
  • Secondary uses of information
  • Anonymised and pseudonymised information
  • Security and avoiding breaches
  • Visual and audio images/videos
  • Online complaints and the media
  • Statutory restrictions on disclosure