The new guidance includes advice on assessing fitness to drive, among other changes and revisions.

The GMC has recently updated one of its core pieces of guidance for medical professionals. 'Confidentiality: good practice in handling patient information' was published on 26 January 2017 and comes into effect on 25 April.

This guidance was last updated in 2009, and until the new guidance comes into effect in April the current version remains valid. This latest revision comes after an extensive period of consultation, and while the core principles surrounding doctors' duties of confidentiality are largely unchanged, the new guidance places greater emphasis and expands on some specific aspects of doctors' duties and responsibilities.

These areas include underlining the importance of sharing information in light of 'the multi-disciplinary and multi-agency context doctors usually work in', as well as clarifying 'the public protection responsibilities of doctors, including when to make disclosures in the public interest.'

The accompanying explanatory guidance relates the new advice to specific types of situations, including reporting gunshot and knife wounds, disclosing information for employment or insurance reasons, and assessing and reporting patients' fitness to drive to either the DVLA or DVA.

This last section is likely to be particularly relevant to many of those working in primary care, with the updates including, 'an overt expression of doctors' duties to protect and promote the health of patients and the public, as well as to respect confidentiality.'

Balancing priorities in this manner is common in situations involving confidentiality dilemmas, and a familiarity with this newly updated guidance will be invaluable in addressing them confidently and safely.

For more medico-legal guidance and advice on confidentiality issues, visit the MDU website.

This page was correct at publication on 02/03/2017. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.