Occupational health confidentiality: doctors welcome revised GMC guidance

Occupational health doctors welcomed the General Medical Council’s (GMC’s) publication in January of revised guidance on confidentiality for all doctors practising in the UK.

The new guide, Confidentiality: good practice in handling patient information, is set to come into effect from 25 April 2017.

While the principles of the current guidance remain unchanged, the GMC said four important clarifications had been made, covering:

  • The public protection responsibilities of doctors, including when to make disclosures in the public interest.
  • The importance of sharing information for direct care, recognising the multidisciplinary and multi-agency context doctors work in.
  • The circumstances in which doctors can rely on implied consent to share patient information for direct care.
  • The significant role that those close to a patient can play in providing support and care, and the importance of acknowledging that role.

The guidance also includes a decision-making flowchart and explanatory notes to help doctors apply the guidance to situations they might encounter.

The update by the GMC was welcomed by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM).

President Dr Richard Heron said that, in particular, it would be helpful in referring to issues involved in providing medical reports related to employment.

“Occupational health plays an important role in supporting employees with illness and disability, and clarity regarding medical confidentiality is important in ensuring ethical practice to support patients appropriately.

“The updated guidance complements a detailed ethical guidance document produced by FOM to advise doctors and other multidisciplinary health professionals working in the field of occupational health regarding confidentiality and other ethical issues,” he added.

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