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Confidentiality & Data Protection

Confidentiality & Data Protection

The appraisal interview is confidential except where any serious issues of patient safety arise.

Appraisers are obliged to respect the confidentiality of appraisal discussions. The only exception to this is where issues are raised which, under the obligations of the GMC, mean that confidentiality must be breached in the interests of patient safety. In such a case, appraisal information would only be shared with the appropriate authorities, and only to the extent necessary to protect patient safety.

Appraisers are required to outline their responsibilities relating to confidentiality at the start of each interview as follows:

  • An agreed summary of the appraisal will be created (Form 4) and this will be available to future appraisers, the Appraisal Lead and the Responsible Officer;
  • The Responsible Officer, or their delegated representative, may request access to all the documentation relating to an appraisal in order to obtain the necessary information to make a recommendation to the GMC regarding the revalidation of the doctor's licence to practice;
  • In the event of serious concerns regarding patient safety, as a result of an appraisal interview, an appraiser may wish to consult with the Appraisal Lead and/or Medical Director regarding the appropriate course of action. The appraisee will be informed if the appraiser believes this to be necessary. In this situation information which was disclosed during the appraisal may be passed on to the appropriate authority, if it is deemed necessary.

On SOAR, the appraisee is required to accept the terms as outlined above before the interview can proceed.

General Points about Confidentiality

An appraiser will not disclose any information obtained through an appraisal to other parties.

An appraiser may discuss a general issue in confidence with their Appraisal Lead in order to seek help and advice in supporting their appraisee. Where the appraiser feels an appraisee could be identified because of local knowledge, there is provision for them to seek general advice confidentially and anonymously outwith the area.

Where an appraiser does feel obliged to breach the confidentiality of the discussion because they are concerned for patient safety, they will seek to discuss the issues with the appraisee prior to the disclosure wherever possible. The disclosure would be made in confidence to their Appraisal Lead who would refer on to the local Medical Director or other appropriate body as appropriate.

Data protection

As the organisation responsible for deciding how and why personal data relating to doctors undergoing appraisal is to be processed through the provision of SOAR, NHS Education for Scotland (NES) assumes responsibility as the Data Controller for the Medical Appraisal Scheme in Scotland.  This means that NES is responsible for the overall compliance of the scheme in terms of the Data Protection Act 1998.

NHS Scotland health boards are Data Processors under this scheme. As such, health boards are expected to handle all personal and appraisal information relating to the appraisal interview and the appraisal process in accordance with these guidelines. Notwithstanding, Boards should note that they retain the responsibilities of Data Controller in relation to the employment records and associated personal information they may hold on those with appraiser and/or Appraisal Lead roles in their employment.

Appraisers and Appraisal Leads are also Data Processors under this scheme.  This means that all appraisers and Appraisal Leads engaged by Boards to participate in the scheme are expected to handle all personal appraisal data and appraisal forms in accordance with the guidelines set out by NES.

Please visit the NES Privacy and Data Protection for further information re data processing.

Who can see my appraisal forms?

This page was last updated on: 07/04/2022