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Sex Transm Infect 89:90 doi:10.1136/sextrans-2013-051014
  • BASHH Column

Patient confidentiality in sexual health services and electronic patient records

  1. Mary Poulton
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mary Poulton, Department of GUM/HIV, Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RS, UK; Mary.poulton{at}nhs.net

There is a public interest in maintaining confidentiality in all interactions between patients and healthcare professionals and there needs to be strong justification for breaching this without patient consent. On the other hand there is a strong presumption of sharing health information between healthcare professionals responsible for the care of individual patients including the patient's general practitioner. However genitourinary medicine services have always had a different view of patient confidentiality; in order to encourage attendance and prompt treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) identifiable information is not shared beyond the clinic unless there is specific patient consent. This approach is consistently backed by patients when asked why they choose to attend such services rather than their general practitioner (GP).1–4 Despite different interpretations as to the exact meaning it has also been backed by the STI regulations.5 We currently await clarity on the future of these regulations within the new health and social care act.

On the face of things the advent of electronic patient records does not …