A review of public and personal attitudes to the confidentiality of healthcare data, General Medical Council


The General Medical Council (GMC) is the independent regulator for doctors in the UK. They publish guidance which sets out the ethical principles and professional standards that underpin good practice. In 2015 the GMC commissioned OPM to conduct a literature review to inform the updating of its guidance on the confidentiality of healthcare data.

What we did

The literature review was based on detailed searches of eight academic databases. The searches were supplemented by online searches and interviews with relevant experts to ensure that key sources of information were not missed.

From an initial sift by title and abstract, 184 articles were identified as being of possible relevance. Following full text review, 65 articles were identified for inclusion, and reviewed in detail. Relevant data from each item was extracted and recorded in the database against the research question(s) to which it related. The reviewed material was subjected to broad content analysis, with key themes and associations drawn out.


The key findings of the review included the following:

  • Professionals are typically more open to the sharing of patient data than members of the public.
  • Patients and professionals are enthusiastic about the possible benefits of electronic medical records, but concerned about data security.
  • Members of the public have higher levels of trust in the NHS’s use of their data, but low trust in relation to private companies.
  • Members of the public often have poor awareness of the ways in which patient information is currently used and who it is available to.