Staff Confidentiality Policy & Agreement
The aims of the policy are to ensure:
- all information held at the Practice about patients is confidential, whether held electronically or in hard copy
- other information about the Practice (for example its financial matters, staff records) is confidential
- staff will by necessity have access to such confidential information from time to time
The policy applies to all employees and partners, and also applies in principle* to other people who work at the practice e.g. self-employed staff, temporary staff and contractors – collectively referred to herein as ‘workers’.
*Practices should ensure that workers who are not employees are aware of and agree to abide by this policy in principle. In cases calling for action, and if the worker is an employee of another organisation (e.g. an agency), the worker's employer should also be involved
- Workers must not under any circumstances disclose patient information to anyone outside the practice, except to other health professionals on a need-to-know basis, or where the patient has provided written consent.
- All information about patients is confidential: from the most sensitive diagnosis to the fact of having visited the surgery or being registered at the practice. This includes information about patients’ families or others associated with them.
- Workers must not under any circumstances disclose other confidential information about the practice to anyone outside the practice.
- Workers should limit any discussion about confidential information only to those who need to know within the practice.
- The duty of confidentiality owed to a person under 16 is as great as the duty owed to any other person.
- Workers must be aware of and conform to the requirements of the Caldicott recommendations.
- All patients can expect that their personal information will not be disclosed without their permission (except in the most exceptional circumstances when disclosure is required when a person is at grave risk of serious harm).
- Where disclosure of information is required which is non-routine in nature the patient will, where possible, be fully informed of the nature of the disclosure prior to this being released.
- Electronic transfer of any confidential information, once approved by the Senior Partner, must be transmitted via the NHSnet. Workers must take particular care that confidential information is not transmitted in error by email or over the Internet. See also: Electronic Transfer of Patient Data Policy [*]
- Workers must not take data from the practice’s computer systems (e.g. on a memory stick or removable drive) off the premises.
- Workers who suspect a breach of confidentiality must inform the Practice Manager
- Any breach of confidentiality will be considered as a serious disciplinary offence and may lead to dismissal. Workers remain bound by a requirement to keep information confidential even if they are no longer employed at the practice. Any breach, or suspected breach, of confidentiality after the worker has left the practice’s employment will be passed to the practice’s lawyers for action
Responsibilities of Practice Staff/Workers
All health professionals must follow their professional codes of practice and the law. This means that they must make every effort to protect confidentiality. It also means that no identifiable information about a patient is passed to anyone or any agency without the express permission of that patient, except when this is essential for providing care or necessary to protect somebody’s health, safety or well-being.
All health professionals are individually accountable for their own actions. They should, however, also work together as a team to ensure that standards of confidentiality are upheld, and that improper disclosures are avoided.
Additionally, Brunswick Health Centre, as Employers:
- Are responsible for ensuring that everybody employed by the practice understands the need for, and maintains, confidentiality.
- Have overall responsibility for ensuring that systems and mechanisms are in place to protect confidentiality.
- Have vicarious liability for the actions of those working in the practice – including health professionals and non-clinical staff (i.e. those not employed directly by the practice but who work in the surgery).
Standards of confidentiality apply to all health professionals, administrative and ancillary staff - including receptionists, secretaries, practice manager, cleaners and maintenance staff who are bound by contracts of employment to maintain confidentiality. They must not reveal personal information they learn in the course of their work, or due to their presence in the surgery, to anybody outside the practice without the patient’s consent. Nor will they discuss with colleagues any aspect of a patient’s attendance at the surgery in a way that might allow identification of the patient unless to do so is necessary for the patient’s care.
If Disclosure is Necessary
If a patient or another person is at grave risk of serious harm that disclosure to an appropriate person would prevent, the relevant health professional can take advice from colleagues within the practice, of from a professional / regulatory / defence body, in order to decide whether disclosure without consent is justified to protect the patient or another person. If a decision is taken to disclose, the patient should always be informed before disclosure is made, unless to do so could be dangerous. If at all possible, any such decisions should be shared with another member of the practice team.
Any decision to disclose information to protect health, safety or well-being will be based on the degree of current or potential harm, not the age of the patient.