All staff working for the NHS have to follow NHS rules on confidentiality, and they could face disciplinary action or dismissal if they do not. The rules are as relevant in doctor’s and dentist’s surgeries as in hospitals.
You may sometimes need to talk to a doctor or another healthcare worker about things you’d like kept private. This could include your HIV status, things about sex, or how you’re feeling. You can expect this information to be treated with the strictest confidence. The general principle is that your personal information must be kept private. One important exception is that relevant information will normally be shared within the healthcare team and with other health workers who give you care. This is mostly so that the right decisions about treatment can be made. These rules apply to reception and other support staffists as well as to doctors, dentists and nurses. Reception staff might have access to your medical notes as part of their work, but they certainly shouldn’t discuss your HIV status in public, or with anyone outside the healthcare team.
Confidentiality is also protected by the law, and it would be possible to take legal action against someone who has breached your confidence. Doctors who break the rules could be “struck off”, which means they can’t work as a doctor any more.
The same rules of confidentiality will apply to the Summary Care Record. This is a new system of electronic records being introduced in England.
Find out more about NHS Summary Care Records.
Similar systems exist in Scotland (Emergency Care Records), Wales (Individual Health Records) and Northern Ireland (Emergency Care Summary Records).
It is within the NHS rules for anonymous information to be shared. For example, the GP might pass on statistics about what treatment was provided, but should remove your name and any other information that could identify you.
There are some situations where you might agree that your doctor can provide information from your medical records. For example, you may give permission to a doctor to provide information as part of an application for an insurance policy, or to an employer when you are applying for a job.
There are a few other situations when the normal rules of confidentiality may not applybe broken. These situations are extremely uncommon.
Otherwise, the doctor (and other health workers) must make sure that your medical information remains private.
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This article was last reviewed on
Date due for the next review: 30/9/2014
Content Author: R. Pebody (NAM)
Current Owner: R. Pebody (NAM)
NHS Summary Care Records
Confidentiality: NHS Code of Practice, Department of Health (2003)
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