For more information on how to submit a paper to a specific BMJ Journal, please visit the instructions for authors’ page for the journal that is of interest to you.
Our policy is based on the UK’s Data Protection Act, the English common law of confidentiality, and the traditions of medical ethics.
- Any article that contains personal medical information about an identifiable living individual requires the patient’s explicit consent before we can publish it. We would like the patient to sign our consent form, which requires the patient to have read the article.
If consent cannot be obtained because the patient cannot be traced then publication will be possible only if the information
can be sufficiently anonymised. Anonymisation means that neither the patient nor anyone else could identify the patient with
A consequence of any anonymisation is likely to be the loss of information/evidence.
If this happens we will include the following note at the end of the paper: Detail has been removed from this case description/these case descriptions to ensure anonymity. The editors and reviewers have seen the detailed information available and are satisfied that the information backs up the case the authors are making.
Such anonymisation might, at an extreme, involve making the authors of the article anonymous.
If the patient is dead the Data Protection Act does not apply, but the authors should seek permission from a relative
(as a matter of courtesy and medical ethics)
If the relatives are not contactable we will balance the worthwhileness of the case, the likelihood of identification, and the likelihood of offence if identified in making a decision on whether we should publish without a relative’s consent.
- This policy applies to any identifiable medical information. The most obvious places where this occurs is in case reports, anecdotes, and photographs of patients. However, the issue may also arise in articles describing research if the numbers in some subgroups are very small.
- Our policy on obtaining consent for publication of pictures of patients is a subset of our general policy on patient confidentiality. If there is any chance that a patient may be identified from a photograph or other image or from its legend or accompanying text we need the patient’s written consent to publication in the BMJGroup.
- Images – such as x rays, laparoscopic images, ultrasound images, pathology slides, or images of undistinctive parts of the body – may be used without consent so long as they are anonymised by the removal of any identifying marks and are not accompanied by text that could reveal the patient’s identity through clinical or personal detail.
- An exception to this policy of needing consent for recognisable photographs of individuals is when we use photographs from picture agencies to illustrate news stories and other articles. We state where these photographs have come from and we rely on the fact that the agencies and their photographers have obtained the relevant permissions from the people shown in the photographs. If we doubt that someone photographed could have given consent – owing for example to severe mental illness or learning disability – we will use our discretion and avoid using such images.
Patient consent forms
Please use our consent form for any image or description that needs consent to publication.
If the patient is a minor but capable of understanding what is being asked please obtain a signed form from both the patient and his or her parent or guardian.
Please print out the form, fill in the details about the article, ask the patient or next of kin to sign the form, and then send or fax it to us or scan it and upload it to our online editorial office as a supplemental file to your article.
We now have our patient consent form in 16 different languages including English.
Patient consent form (English)
Patient consent form (Arabic)
Patient consent form (Bengali)
Patient consent form (Chinese Simplified)
Patient consent form (Chinese Traditional)
Patient consent form (Dutch)
Patient consent form (French)
Patient consent form (German)
Patient consent form (Greek)
Patient consent form (Hindi)
Patient consent form (Italian)
Patient consent form (Japanese)
Patient consent form (Khmer)
Patient consent form (Portuguese)
Patient consent form (Romanian)
Patient consent form (Russian)
Patient consent form (Spanish)
Patient consent form (Thai)
We expect authors to inform the journal of any errors they have noticed (or have been informed of) in their article once published. Corrections are made at the journal's discretion.
The Online First (or published ahead of print) version is considered the version of record, and not an opportunity to make changes prior to print publication. For the BMJ Journals, we will consider replacing this version with an updated version which corrects the error and notes that the change has been made (in a correction notice at the end of the article). The notice will be retained in the print version for record.
A notice will be printed in the next available print issue, which will be linked to the article online.
Continuous publication journals
These journals do not publish online first; articles go straight into virtual issues. A correction notice is published online and linked to the article.
For errors in issues/continuous publication journals, we may consider correcting the actual article online (XML and PDF), at the editor’s discretion. We will add a correction notice at the end to say what has been changed since it was first published and publish an erratum.
Correction notices are indexed and linked to the original records in Medline and Web of Science.
Retractions are considered by journal editors in cases of evidence of unreliable data or findings; plagiarism; duplicate publication; and unethical research. We may consider an expression of concern notice if an article is under investigation.
A new version of the article is posted containing just the metadata, with a retraction note replacing the original text. A retraction notice is published in print.
A replacement version of the article is posted containing just the metadata, with a retraction note replacing the original text. The PDF is replaced with a version watermarked with “Retracted”. A retraction notice is published in print.
Retractions - complete removal
In rare cases, we will have to remove the original content for legal reasons. In such cases we will leave the metadata (title and authors) and replace the text with a note saying the article has been removed for legal reasons. A retraction notice would also be published in online first and/or in print.
Retraction notices are indexed and linked to the original records in Medline and Web of Science.
This procedure applies to complaints about the publishing policies, procedures and actions of BMJ journals’ publishing
and editorial staff and editors-in-chief of BMJ journals.
Complaints that relate to The BMJ should follow the procedure outlined here.
Journal editors-in-chief are responsible for the editorial content of their journal. Editors’ decisions are final on matters of editorial content. Rebuttals of editorial decisions should be directed to the relevant editor.
We define a complaint as:
• anything defined as a complaint by the complainant
• anything we believe goes beyond an expression of disagreement with a decision and identifies a perceived failure of process or severe misjudgement.
The complaint must relate to content or a procedure that was the responsibility of BMJ journals or our editors.
How to register a complaint
Complaints may be made by phone, email or letter. Informing us in writing by email is advised as it provides the most reliable audit trail. The complaint should be directed initially to the person the complainant is already in contact with over the relevant matter. If that is not appropriate please email the journal manager or managing editor of the journal named on the Contact us page of that journal’s website.
Whenever possible complaints will be dealt with by the person to whom they are made. Where that is not possible or appropriate the complaint will be referred to the most appropriate person.
Complaints not under the control of BMJ journals’ editorial staff or journal editors will be sent to the relevant head of department.
Complaints sent to the BMJ chairman or chief executive, or BMA or affiliated society officials, will usually be referred to the relevant journal’s publisher or editor-in-chief.
All complaints will be acknowledged immediately if made on the telephone or within three working days of receipt if made by email or post.
If possible a definitive response will be made within two weeks. If this is not possible an interim response will be given within two weeks. Interim responses will be provided until the complaint is resolved.
If the complainant is unhappy with the initial response they can ask for the complaint to be escalated to the relevant manager.
If a complainant remains unhappy after a reply considered definitive by the editor-in-chief or publisher, the complainant may complain to an external body, when that body has relevant oversight.
The Committee on Publication Ethics
COPE publishes a code of practice for editors of scientific, technical, and medical journals http://www.publicationethics.org.uk/. It will consider complaints against editors but only once a journal's own complaints procedures have been exhausted.
The Press Complaints Commission
"The Press Complaints Commission is an independent body which deals with complaints from members of the public about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines." http://www.pmcpa.org.uk/
The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice
For anything related to a published advertisement for a prescription medicine. http://www.abpi.org.uk/links/assoc/pmcpa.asp.
The BMJ Open Editions are a new collection of six specialty subject areas, offering a focused perspective on the wide range of content published within BMJ Open, the international open access general medical journal from the BMJ Group.
Visit the website to watch our video and find out more.