Confidentiality in Health and Social Care

Confidentiality in health and social care – What is it? Why is it important? How does it affect you as a worker?

It is essential that as a someone working in the Health and Social Care sector you understand confidentiality and its importance in your practice. There are five key rules which include:

  1. Confidential information about service users or patients should be treated confidentially and respectfully.
  2. Members of a care team should share confidential information when it is needed for the safe and effective care of an individual.
  3. Information that is shared for the benefit of the community should be anonymised.
  4. An individual’s right to object to the sharing of confidential information about them should be respected.
  5. Organisations should put policies, procedures and systems in place to ensure the confidentiality rules are followed.

It is essential for you to understand your duty of confidentiality and the situations where you might have to override this duty.

What is Confidentiality? 

Understanding confidentiality is when a client gives you information and expects that information to be kept in confidence, or secret. Three principles are covered by this:

1. By law, either through government legislation or case law
2. Through professional codes of conduct or best practices
3. By means of your contract as a healthcare professional.

Additionally, there is legislation that covers what information can be regarded as confidential. This is also part of GDPR. In short, these principles are:

  • The information must be in some way private and would normally be kept secret
  • It must be provided at a time when you’d expect confidence, such as when you tell a doctor about a medical condition
  • If the information were to be disclosed it would have negative or detrimental consequences.

As you work in a position of trust as a Health Care Worker, it means you are going to find out deeply personal information about a person you support. You must keep this information confidential.

When is Confidentiality in health and social care allowed to be breached?

There are instances when you cannot keep the confidence of a person you support, for example, problems may start to occur when you address ethical issues. At times you may question whether keeping information confidential is the right thing to do. So should it be breached? In short yes, but its more complicated than you may think:

  1. You suspect a patient is at risk of harm from someone else
  2. You suspect your patient is a risk to someone else

You can find more information about Confidentiality from the HSCIC Guide here
We also have an introductory course that is free to take here which covers confidentiality.

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