CONFIDENTIALITY AND INFORMATION SHARING
A confidentiality agreement enables an open and honest relationship between you as a patient, the nurse and recovery worker involved with your treatment. Confidentiality is central to trust between you, the nurse and, your recovery worker.
However, sharing information can at times be essential to enable seamless integrated treatment. Treatment that may, at some point, involve referral to other agencies and services. Referral to other services is done in order to best meet your individual needs and reduce risk of harm to yourself and others.
Therefore, it is important to find a balance between your right to confidentiality and the importance of information sharing with any other agencies and services that may be involved with your treatment.
No health care professional can offer absolute confidentiality. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that all patients have a complete understanding of when information will be kept in confidence, when it will be shared with other services involved in their care, and in what circumstances confidentiality will be breached. Health care professionals seek to help patients achieve this understanding by establishing clear policies on confidentiality, written in accordance with national guidelines and standards, and made readily available to all patients.
CONFIDENTIALITY AND CONSENT
During initial screening and subsequent assessment, both health and personal information from you is collected in confidence. This information is bound by a legal duty of confidence until it has been effectively rendered anonymous. Established under common law, this legal duty prohibits any health care professional from using the information collected from you and disclosing it without your consent. This duty effectively provides you with a degree of control over who sees the information you provided in confidence. This duty can only be overridden if there is a statutory requirement, a court order, or if there is a robust public interest justification.
Any disclosure of medical data by health care professionals must be justified by first obtaining your consent prior to the disclosure. Your consent is bound by three important considerations.
- Prior Knowledge: You must know about the proposed uses or disclosures of your personal data.
- Choice: When you give consent, you must be given some degree of choice. “Consent” given under duress or coercion is not consent at all. By contrast consent, which is entirely optional and may be withheld without consequence, is clearly valid.
- Indication Consent Has Been Given: There must be some indication that you have given your consent. This may be express or implied. Express consent is given by you agreeing actively, usually orally or in writing, to a particular use or disclosure of information. Implied consent is given when you take an action in the knowledge that in doing so you have incidentally agreed to a particular use or disclosure of information. For instance if you visit a GP for treatment, you imply consent to your GP to consult your medical records to assist in diagnosis and treatment.
LIMITS OF CONFIDENTIALITY
If you ask a health care professional not to share information about yourself with another person or organisation it should be respected unless there are exceptional circumstances. Not sharing some information may mean care may be modified and therefore it is important to ensure that you are aware of this prior to your decision to withhold information from other agencies that could prove crucial to your treatment. The final decision of course will always rest with you.
There are exceptional circumstances where information about you will be shared even if you have not given us permission to do so. These circumstances involve situations where information is shared for legal reasons or is in the public interest. Circumstances where information may be shared without your permission include:
- Where required by law (notification of births, deaths and some infectious diseases).
- Where a court order has been issued requesting the information.
- Where there is a serious risk of harm to either yourself or other individuals.
- Where a child is believed to be at risk of harm (Children Act 1989).
- Where information is required for the prevention, detection or prosecution of a serious crime.
- If you give us information about a serious crime that has been committed, such as murder, manslaughter, rape, treason or kidnapping (Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984).
- If you give us information about suspected terrorism (Anti-terrorism, Crime & Security Act 2001 and Terrorism Act 2000).
- Where disclosure is necessary to establish rights in any legal proceeding.
When there is uncertainty what action to take, confidential advice may be sought from another health care professional. If it is deemed necessary to break confidentiality you will be informed, if possible, of intentions prior to the subsequent sharing of information.
Please be aware written records relating to patients are kept in either paper or computer format. These records are stored according to data protection.