BMA guidance

Confidentiality and health records

This 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: Wednesday 31 January 2024
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.


What you'll get from this toolkit

  • Ethical and legal principles of confidentiality
  • The circumstances when confidential information can be shared
  • Handling requests from third parties
  • Links to other relevant guidance from the BMA and other bodies including the General Medical Council

You may also be interested to read access to health records and see our core ethics guidance


How to use this toolkit

The purpose of this resource is not to provide definitive answers for every situation but to identify the key factors that need to be considered when decisions are made; to summarise the relevant legal considerations; and to signpost other key professional guidance. It is not a set of rules or instructions, or a substitute for careful reflection and discussion with colleagues.

  • 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