All information concerning patients is confidential, from the most sensitive diagnosis to the fact of having visited the office at all or being registered in the practice. A breach of confidentiality constitutes gross misconduct and may result in dismissal, subject to the provisions of the practice's disciplinary procedure.
The reason for a strict code of confidentiality in relation to patients is that, in general practice staff are in possession of, or have access to, personal health information about individuals. This must remain confidential unless the patient provides informed consent for its release. In a limited number of circumstances, the doctor responsible for the patient's care may decide that particular information should be disclosed without consent. This would be justified, for example, in cases where disclosure was in the patient's interest, but it was impossible, or medically undesirable, to seek his or her consent. Another example would be a situation where the doctor decided that he or she had an overriding duty to society to disclose information because a serious crime had been, or was very likely to be, committed. However, such rare decisions are the doctor's and under no circumstances must staff make a decision to disclose patient information. The duty of confidentiality owed to a person under 16 years of age is as great as that extended to any other person.