Confidentiality

Topics: Health care, Decision making, Data Protection Act 1998 Pages: 7 (1922 words) Published: December 2, 2013
The code: Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives’ (2008) states:

"You must respect people's right to confidentiality."
"You must ensure people are informed about how and why information is shared by those who will be providing their care." "You must disclose information if you believe someone may be at risk of harm, in line with the law of the country in which you are practising." Confidentiality

A duty of confidence arises when one person discloses information to another in circumstances where it is reasonable to expect that the information will be held in confidence. This duty of confidence is derived from:

common law – the decisions of the Courts
statute law which is passed by Parliament.
Confidentiality is a fundamental part of professional practice that protects human rights. This is identified in Article 8 (Right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention of Human Rights which states:

1: Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2: There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.’

The common law of confidentiality reflects that people have a right to expect that information given to a nurse or midwife is only used for the purpose for which it was given and will not be disclosed without permission. This covers situations where information is disclosed directly to the nurse or midwife and also to information that the nurse or midwife obtains from others. One aspect of privacy is that individuals have the right to control access to their own personal health information.

It is not acceptable for nurses and midwives to:

discuss matters related to the people in their care outside the clinical setting discuss a case with colleagues in public where they may be overheard leave records unattended where they may be read by unauthorised persons. Legislation

All nurses and midwives need to be aware of the following pieces of legislation relating to confidentiality:

The Data Protection Act 1998

This Act governs the processing of information that identifies living individuals. Processing includes holding, obtaining, recording, using and disclosing of information and the Act applies to all forms of media, including paper and electronic.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990

Regulates the provision of new reproductive technology services and places a statutory ban upon the disclosure of information concerning gamete donors and people receiving treatment under the Act. Unauthorised disclosure of such information by healthcare professionals and others has been made a criminal offence.

The National Health Service Venereal Disease Regulations (SI 1974 No.29)

This states that health authorities should take all necessary steps to ensure that identifiable information relating to persons being treated for sexually transmitted diseases should not be disclosed.

The Mental Capacity Act (2005)

This provides a legal framework to empower and protect people who may lack capacity to make some decisions for themselves. The assessor of an “individual’s capacity to make a decision will usually be the person who is directly concerned with the individual at the time the decision needs to be made” this means that different health and social care workers will be involved in different capacity decisions at different times.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

These Acts grant people rights of access to information that is not covered by the Data Protection Act 1998, e.g. information...
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