Carers Rights Day 2018 series: confidentiality and carers

Professionals are allowed to share information with you if the person you care for provides consent to do so. But what if they don’t?

As a carer, you are naturally worried about the person you care for and want to know what is happening to them.

However, you may find that professionals say they cannot share information due to confidentiality.

What is patient confidentiality?

Professionals are bound by law and professional codes of conduct to protect patient confidentiality. This means they are not allowed to share personal information about a patient without their consent, except in limited circumstances. This includes information about their treatment.

Can professionals ever share information to carers without patient consent?

Professionals can only share information with carers without consent when:

> It is in the public interest. So for example, if the person might be a danger to others.
> As part of a court order.
> The person lacks mental capacity to decide whether or not to share information, and the professional believes it is in their best interests to share certain information with their carer.

For more information, see our Mental Capacity article.

What should professionals do if someone doesn't provide consent?

Professionals should regularly ask the person you care for whether they are happy to share information with carers, as they may change their mind.

Professionals should also check whether the person you care for is happy to share some information e.g. information about treatment and medication, but not other sensitive personal details.

I'm worried about the person I care for. Can I share these concerns with the professionals involved in their care?

As a carer, there is no rule to stop professionals from listening to your concerns and taking them on board.

However, they do not need to tell you what they will do with that information. The professional may also need to share any information you provide with the person you care for.

Can you provide consent in advance?

Rethink has a template advance consent form that the person you care for can fill out, stating what information they are happy to be shared, and who with. This can be useful if professionals are refusing to speak to you as a carer.

If a person is likely to lose the ability to make a decision on whether to share information, they can make an advance statement expressing their wishes. Visit the NHS website for more information.

Our final article will explore how to put plans in place, including Power of Attorney, advance statements and advance decisions.

More information

Rethink has a guide to confidentiality for family and friends.

NHS confidentiality guidance can be found in HSCIC Guide to Confidentiality 2013.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has guidance on carers and confidentiality in mental health. You may wish to check whether professionals are following this guidance.

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