Information Sharing and Disclosure

This is a really difficult area with potential pitfalls in all areas of practice. There are excellent resources available from the GMC in the UK and the Medical Council in Ireland to guide us through the complexities of disclosure and sharing of personal medical information. The principles outlined by the medical councils are principles that underpin professional practice across disciplines.

Medical information is the ‘property’ of the individual and the patient must be our sole focus of care. The problem is that medical information is not just the diagnosis, the treatment or the test results but also the wide range of behavioural, social and psychological factors and situations that relate to our health and illness.

Disclosing such information should be carefully thought through and discussed with the patient before disclosure but there are rare situations where information has to be shared. The GMC framework lists 3 areas:

  • Disclosures to support the direct care of an individual patient
  • Disclosures for the protection of patients and others
  • Disclosures for all other purposes

The medical councils use scenarios and case studies to illustrate the key principles involved.

Use these scenarios and frameworks to better understand the various situations where mistakes can arise.

There are a good range of scenarios dealing with poor communication, relationships, choice of clinically unnecessary treatments, breaking bad news and much more



Discuss some cases with your placement group and how information is kept confidential

Think about how you would respond to a request from relatives about a change in treatment or a suggestion to withhold some bad news

How would you respond to a phone call from someone asking if her husband had ‘seen the doctor this morning’?



GMC UK ‘Confidentiality: good practice in handling patient information (2017)’ and Confidentiality: Case studies,4VQB3,HIKC10,IH14C,1

Medical Council/Comhairle na nDochtuiri Leighis