University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Confidentiality and public interest disclosure: A framework to evaluate UK healthcare professional regulatory guidance

Snelling, Paul ORCID: and Quick, Oliver (2022) Confidentiality and public interest disclosure: A framework to evaluate UK healthcare professional regulatory guidance. Medical Law International. ISSN 0968-5332 Online ISSN: 2047-9441

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Confidentiality and disclosure of information in the public interest present difficult dilemmas for healthcare practitioners and call for clear legal and regulatory guidance. The common law duty of confidence, and established exceptions to it, are shaped by medical practice and detailed guidance produced by the General Medical Council. Guidance issued by other healthcare regulators in a highly fragmented environment is at best unclear, and at worst inaccurate. This paper assembles and justifies a framework of evaluation against which regulators’ guidance can be assessed, focussing on the specific issue of when the duty of confidentiality can be set aside in the public interest. Comparison of statutory regulators’ guidance reveals wide variation which creates uncertainty for practitioners confused by inconsistency between guidance documents. The results of this analysis raise questions about the relationship between common law and regulatory guidance, in particular, whether it is appropriate to recognise different standards for different healthcare professions. This paper argues that there is an opportunity to correct this anomaly and ensure appropriate consistency as part of a wider review of healthcare professional regulation.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: Confidentiality, guidance, healthcare law, professional regulation, public interest disclosure
Subjects: K Law > KD England and Wales
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > RT Nursing
Divisions: College of Health, Life and Environmental Sciences > School of Nursing and Midwifery
Related URLs:
Copyright Info: © The Author(s) 2022
Depositing User: Paul Snelling
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2022 12:46
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2022 16:39

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