Confidentiality can be a real headache for carers. Whether their loved one is being cared for by the NHS or by some other health or social care organisation they often have great difficulty in getting the information they need to care for their relative or friend as the vital part of the care team that they actually are. But does this really need to be the case?
It’s true, of course that people have the right to privacy, including those people who need care services – a fact that few carers would deny or seek to change. But patients and service-users don’t necessarily want to keep EVERYTHING private. Very often the problem arises, not because people have the right to confidentiality but because of the way that workers approach the issue when discussing confidentiality with them in the first place.
It’s important to be nuanced in matters of confidentiality. too often the question is asked…
“Do you want your family to know about your care?”
Really we ought to be far more specific. We need to differentiate more between the types of information we can disclose and that we should not. After all, there can’t be too many young men who would want their mothers to know all about their sex lives or other, equally personal details. Professional care workers need to be much more specific about the types of information to be disclosed and also about which family members or friends it will be disclosed to.
Most carers don’t want the intimate details of personal issues anyway. They do want to understand about medication regimes, care planning, symptoms and side effects, relapse profiles and plans and they need to know who to contact when things go wrong. This requires far more nuanced discussions than typically happen in over-stretched care services. So here’s my solution…
Click here to download a form that you can use to help workers determine just what information can be shared and with whom. It takes all the difficulty out of the equation for care workers by providing them with clear, unambiguous guidance about what they can and cannot disclose.
It is important that the form is completed collaboratively with a representative of the professional care team. The organisation working with the patient or service-user will have legal issues to consider and the worker may need to speak to their management about the form. Don’t ‘ambush’ them with the form. Let them know about it in advance. Ideally give them a copy to discuss with their management first. That way there should be no problems when you do sit down to complete it.
Complete this form at a time when the patient has the mental capacity to make the decision. Staff will not be able to abide by confidentiality decisions made when the patient lacks the capacity to decide.
Please feel free to get in touch, especially let me know of your experiences in using the form. It’d be great to hear from you.