This protocol details the approach of The Nantwich Clinic to the handling of confidential information held about patients. The protocol applies to all employees of The Nantwich Clinic including both clinical and non-clinical staff, and to those individuals not employed by but who have access to patient information as a necessary part of their role. It will be reviewed annually to ensure that it remains effective and relevant.

Importance of confidentiality

Confidentiality is a fundamental part of healthcare and crucial to the trust between Clinicians and patients. Our patients entrust us with sensitive information relating to their health and other matters in order to receive the treatment and services they need. They should be able to expect that this information will remain confidential unless there is a compelling reason why it should not be. All staff at The Nantwich Clinic have legal, ethical and contractual obligations for confidentiality and must ensure that they act appropriately to protect patient information against improper disclosure or use.

Some patients may lack the capacity to give or withhold their consent for the disclosure of confidential information, but this does not diminish the duty of confidentiality. The duty of confidentiality applies to all patients regardless of race, gender, social class, age, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, disability or medical condition.

Information that can identify individual patients must not be used or disclosed for purposes other than healthcare unless the patient (or their appointed representative) has given explicit consent. The only cases in which such information will be supplied without explicit consent are those where the law requires disclosure. All patient identifiable health information must be treated as confidential information, regardless of the format in which it is held.

Information which is effectively anonymised can be used with fewer constraints.
The confidentiality of other sensitive information held about the Clinic and its staff will also be respected.

Obligations of staff – all of The Nantwich Clinic staff will:

• endeavour to maintain patient confidentiality at all times;
• not discuss confidential information with colleagues without patient consent (unless it is part of the provision of care);
• not discuss confidential information in a location or manner that allows it to be overheard;
• handle patient information received from another provider sensitively and confidentially;
• not allow confidential information to be visible in public places;
• store and dispose of confidential information in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Department of Health’s Records Management Code of Practice (Part 2);
• not access confidential information about a patient unless it is necessary as part of their work;
• not remove confidential information from the premises unless it is necessary to do so to provide treatment to a patient and the appropriate technical safeguards are in place;
All Practitioners and non-clinical staff will comply with the law and the guidance or codes of conduct laid down by The Health Care and Professions Council.

Information disclosure

When a decision is taken to disclose information about a patient to a third party due to safeguarding concerns or because it is in the public interest, the patient should always be told and asked for consent before the disclosure unless it would be unsafe or impractical to do so.
In the case that consent can not be sought, then there must be clear reasons and necessity for sharing the information. Disclosures of confidential information about patients to a third party must be made to the appropriate person or organisation and in accordance with the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998 (Annex 1).