NHS doctors can break patient confidentiality by reporting knife injuries to the police, according to new General Medical Council guidelines.

They may also pass on details of inherited conditions and cancers to a patient’s family to alert them to the risks.

Regarding knife wounds, the guidance says even cases involving children who have cut themselves by accident should be reported.

And if staff believe a serious crime has been committed or they are at risk themselves they may pass on patient details to the police.

Dr Henrietta Campbell, who chaired the GMC’s working group on confidentiality, said: “We are not asking doctors to force patients to speak to the police, but we are asking them to pass on information which will help the police to help protect patients, the public and staff from risks of serious harm.”

The advice also covers areas including telling the DVLA if a patient might not be fit to drive, responding to public criticism of treatment and giving information relating to benefit claims.

At present, doctors are only required to pass on details of gunshot wounds. The new guidelines come into effect on 12 October.