Medical confidentiality

Dated: 25 May 2021

POLICY TITLE: Medical Confidentiality

OWNING DIRECTORATE: People Services & Development

AUTHOR: Occupational Health Unit




AIM OF POLICY: Northumbria Police acknowledges the right of all staff to respect their private and family lives afforded by the Human Rights Act 1998. The Force also has a positive duty under the Act to protect the right to life.

BENEFIT OF POLICY: To ensure all staff medical records remain confidential.

REASON FOR POLICY: To comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, the Code of Ethics and confidentiality of the Occupational Health Unit's governing bodies (The Code, Professional standards of practice and behaviour for nurses and midwives 2015; General Medical Council and Faculty of Occupational Medicine Guidance; British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy professional code of conduct).


Medical records are ‘sensitive personal data’ as defined within the Data Protection Act 2018, the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988, and the Access to Medical Record Act 1990. Their storage, retention and disposal will be in accordance with these regulations, including suitable physical security measures to prevent unauthorised access. They are confidential and, except in exceptional and strictly defined circumstances, the informed written consent of the individual to whom the records apply is required before access will be granted to anyone not part of the Occupational Health Unit, whether professionally qualified or not, e.g. solicitors, insurers, managers, and trade union representatives. Written consent can be withdrawn at any time.

In circumstances when the individual has not given informed consent to the disclosure of information or when it is required by law, disclosure will only be made after very careful consideration of all the facts and the individual will be informed prior to making that disclosure whenever practical.

‘Informed Consent’ requires that the individual should understand clearly what information will be imparted, why, to whom, and any possible consequences or outcomes of consenting or refusing consent. If the consequences are not fully understood, advice should be obtained from the Occupational Health Unit, the staff associations, or a legal adviser before deciding.

'Sensitive personal data’, including clinical information, will not be disclosed without the consent of the individual concerned except in accordance with Schedule 3 of the Data Protection Act 2018 and, when necessary, in the interests of national security, public safety, the prevention of crime, the protection of health or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Disclosure in such circumstances will be made only where proportionate in all the circumstances to the harm which might otherwise occur, where no other course of action will achieve the stated aim and to the minimum extent necessary to achieve that aim.

Where it is necessary to consider disclosing information in these circumstances and without the consent of the individual concerned, the decision will be made by the Force Medical Advisor. The Force Medical Advisor will (except where it is believed doing so would cause harm to the individual concerned or would be otherwise inappropriate in the interests of the stated aims of disclosure) invite and consider representations from the individual concerned before making any decision. Where necessary the Force Medical Advisor will seek the advice of their Professional Indemnity Organisation before authorising or making any disclosure without consent and will fully document the reasons for the decision.

Advice to managers about the results of medical assessments is confined to advice on capability and limitation of function. Clinical details are not usually included unless with the individual's consent. Answers to detailed health questionnaires, the results of health assessments or medical examinations and health information on individuals obtained from third parties will be retained by the Occupational Health Unit within the individual's confidential Occupational Health file.


SOURCE DOCUMENT: Human Rights Act 1998; Data Protection Act 2018

GROUPS AFFECTED: All officers/staff


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