Privacy and confidentiality when using the NHS

The Charter of Patient Rights and Responsibilities summarises what you’re entitled to when you:

  • use NHS services
  • receive NHS care in Scotland

It also covers what you can do if you feel that your rights have not been respected.

Privacy and confidentiality

The ‘Privacy and confidentiality’ section of the charter summarises your rights when sharing information with the NHS.


When using NHS services your privacy must be respected.

Whenever possible, you should expect to be:

  • examined by NHS staff in an appropriate private room or cubical
  • in a single-sex ward during hospital stays

You can also ask that students are not present during your treatment and examinations if this makes you more comfortable.

Your records

In order to keep your records up-to-date and accurate, you should tell the NHS:

  • if you change your name, address, phone number or email address
  • if any information in your health records is wrong
  • if you do not want your personal health information shared in a particular way

You also have the responsibility to protect the privacy of the personal health information which you hold. This includes letters you’ve been sent by the NHS in Scotland.

Further information about how NHS Scotland handles your personal information and your data protection rights

Further information about how NHS Scotland is improving the way data from your GP patient records is used with SPIRE


You have the right to tell NHS staff if you do not want your personal health information to be shared in a particular way or with specific people. This right is an important legal and ethical duty for the NHS but it is not an absolute right.

In some circumstances, NHS Scotland can use your information without your permission if:

  • it has to by law in response to a court order or when it is justified in the wider public interest (for example, to prevent the outbreak of a disease or crime)
  • you lack the capacity to (are unable to) give your permission
  • getting your permission would put you or others at risk of serious harm

Decisions about whether it is appropriate for any of your confidential information to be shared are considered thoroughly by the NHS. It may include specialist or legal advice. By law, this kind of decision must be recorded.

Find out more about how your information is stored or how the NHS uses your information

More information:

Last updated:
19 January 2023