Can I speak to a GP about someone else’s health?

It depends whether you have the person’s consent (permission).

If you have consent

Your friend or relative can give their GP permission, either verbally or in writing, to discuss their health with you. If you have consent, you can speak to your friend or relative’s GP about their health.

If you don’t have consent

You can raise concerns about your friend or relative’s health with their GP without their consent, but because of patient confidentiality, the GP won’t be able to discuss any details.

A GP can only intervene if a friend or relative needs treatment under the Mental Health Act (1983). This act allows some people with mental health problems to be compulsorily detained in a psychiatric hospital. The Care Quality Commission website has more information about mental health and the Mental Health Act (1983).

However, if you agree, the GP may be willing to tell your friend or relative that you’re concerned about them and may suggest including you in some of the discussions.

You can speak to your own GP about someone else’s health, but they won't be able to discuss a specific case. Although your GP could help you understand how to provide support, it may be quicker and easier to get information elsewhere.

Getting information and advice

If you’re concerned about a friend or relative’s health, there are many ways for you to get information and advice. For example, you can:

  • find information about hundreds of different health conditions
  • call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 to speak to a health advisor

You could talk to your friend or relative directly if you wish to discuss their condition or treatment. Tell them of your concerns about their health and offer help and support.

Sometimes it can be difficult for someone to see or admit they have a health problem, for example, if they have a drink or drug problem. For more information about some specific problems, see:

Medical records

Under the Data Protection Act (1998) a person’s medical records can be accessed by:

  • the person themselves
  • a parent or guardian for children under 16 - although in some cases the child may be entitled to decide if this information is passed on
  • a friend or relative if they have the person’s written permission
  • a friend or relative if they have power of attorney

For more information about medical records and power of attorney, see Can I access someone else’s medical records (health records)?

Consent to treatment

In English law, no one can give consent to treatment on behalf of another adult. Only the person receiving the treatment can give their permission for it to go ahead.

If a person’s condition means they’re unable to make a decision about their treatment; for example, if they have dementia, the healthcare professionals treating them must act in the person’s best interests.

Read more information about consent to treatment.

Read the answers to more questions about NHS services and treatments

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 24/07/2013

Next review due: 23/07/2015