Can the GP share information with carers?
The GP of a person with dementia can share and discuss concerns and medical information with their carer. However, it depends on whether the person with dementia has capacity to make this decision, and if it is in their best interests for the GP to disclose information to their carer.
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How the GP can support a person with dementia
Can the GP discuss concerns with carers?
Sometimes carers or those supporting the person with dementia want to speak to the GP about the person. For example, someone might want to talk to the doctor about their partner’s memory problems.
The General Medical Council (GMC) helps to protect patients and improve UK medical practice. It produces clear guidance on confidentiality. This guidance states that a doctor should not refuse to listen to someone who is close to the patient on the grounds of confidentiality.
They should listen to any concerns that carers, relatives, friends and others close to the person have, because this information may help their patient – the person with dementia. However, the doctor should make it clear that they may tell the person with dementia. The doctor is also responsible for considering how the person with dementia might feel about others sharing concerns and information with the GP.
It can help if the person with dementia has already had a chat with their GP about information they would like shared, who to share the information with, and in what circumstances. This way everyone has a clear idea of what the person with dementia wants.
Can the GP share medical information with carers?
Whether the GP can share medical information about the person with dementia to those supporting them will depend on whether the person with dementia has capacity – the ability to make decisions for themselves. For more information on capacity see Mental Capacity Act 2005.
The person with dementia is their main concern, and the GP should support them to be involved as much as they want and are able to be. They should take into account any views the person has previously expressed.
If the person with dementia has capacity to make decisions about their health and related matters, it is their decision whether to share this information and who to share it with.
If the person with dementia does not have capacity
If the person with dementia doesn’t have capacity, there may be either a Lasting power of attorney (LPA) for health and welfare, or a personal welfare deputy in place. In these cases the GP should disclose information to this representative, and they can make any decisions that the person would have made for themselves (for example, agreeing to treatment).
If someone doesn’t have the capacity to consent to their information being shared, the GP should only share information about them with other people in specific situations. For example, if not sharing the information may result in harm to them, or another person.
The General Medical Council
The General Medical Council’s guidance on confidentiality covers advice for when the person does not have the capacity to consent to their information being shared. It recommends that the doctor should assume that the patient would want the people closest to them to know about their condition, unless they have indicated this is not the case.
If you think it is not in the person’s best interests for the GP to keep information from you, explain this to the GP. It may help to give clear reasons and mention the GMC guidance. If you can’t resolve the situation you can ask the surgery for a copy of their complaints procedure. For more information, see ‘Other resources'.