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Can I share a patient's records with other members of the healthcare team?

2 January 2015

Clinical information may need to be shared with other members of the team for the 'primary purpose' of ensuring the patient's proper care and treatment. 

Patients should be told why, when and with whom their information will be shared and if they object their views should usually be respected. An exception might be where disclosure is justified in the public interest.

Data sharing for so-called 'secondary purposes' such as the care.data project, is an evolving area and you are advised to seek specific MDU advice.

This guidance was correct at publication on 02/01/2015. It 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.

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  • The MDU
  • 17 July 2017 1:50PM

Thank you to Dr Burrows for this comment, which raises an important question. The GMC guidance 'Confidentiality: good practice in handling patient information' (2017) addresses this in paragraphs 30-31. If a patient who has capacity objects to particular personal information being shared for their direct care, you should not disclose the information unless it would be justified in the public interest. You should explain the potential consequences to the patient and aim for a compromise; in many cases, it may be that a referral can be made safely in that way. But, if you are convinced that the information is in your view essential for safe care and the patient cannot be persuaded, you should explain to the patient that you cannot arrange for their treatment without also disclosing that information. You are welcome to make contact with our advisers to discuss individual cases.

  • Dr Burrows
  • 15 July 2017 1:38PM

Recently heard of a colleague who referred from primary to secondary care, writing an appropriate letter detailing the problem and including the patients past medical history. After the secondary care consult the patient complained that they had not given permission for their relevant PMH to be provided to the secondary care doctor (although equally they had not said they were unhappy about it at the time of the referral). From the above you seem to suggest that should a patient not want their record/PMH included in a referral letter then we should respect this, how then can primary care produce sensible and acceptable referrals?

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