This page is designed to answer the following questions:
- 6.4b List any legislation and agreed ways of working to maintain confidentiality in day-to-day communication (Care Certificate, Standard 6: Communication)
- 4.2 Demonstrate confidentiality in day to day communication, in line with agreed ways of working (Level 2 Diploma in Care, Communication in care settings)
Day-to-day, confidentiality can be maintained by being mindful of how personal information is stored and discussed. Social care workers should also be familiar with current legislation; the UK’s Data Protection Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.
You will also need to be familiar with your employer’s agreed ways of working that pertain to confidentiality and follow them correctly. This can include policies on how information is recorded, stored and accessed as well as guidance on ensuring personal information is only shared on a need-to-know basis.
Personal records and documentation should be kept in a secure place where it can’t be accessed by the public or non-permitted individuals.
Discussions about individuals should only be done in private, where there is no risk of being overheard by others. Personal information should only be discussed with others on a need-to-know basis.
Personal information that is stored in digital format should only be on secure, password-protected devices and, again, only people that have authorisation should have access to it.
Envelopes and letters should be marked as Private & Confidential.
Documentation and records should be disposed of securely (e.g. shredded).
When sharing personal information with others, there should be a good reason for doing so and in most cases consent should be obtained from the individual before doing so. There may be extenuating circumstances where consent is not required such as if there is a risk of somebody coming to harm if the information is not shared.
Any non-compliance or breaches in confidentiality should be reported immediately.
Example question and answer
You are a social care worker and a service user, Hannah, tells you that she is unhappy taking her new medication. She thinks she does not need it and so she is throwing it away. You know from her care plan that Hannah does need to take the take the medication regularly and gets confused. Hannah begs you to keep this confidential and not tell anyone especially her daughter, who she sees regularly, as her daughter will be very angry.
In this case, I would explain to Hannah that her medication is necessary for her health and I have a duty of care to ensure that she takes it or contact relevant people if she doesn’t. I would discuss the reasons for her not taking the medication and explain that I could contact her GP to look at the possibility of changing the medication. Whether I tell her daughter or not would depend on the circumstances. If her daughter is her main carer, advocate or power of attorney I would explain that she has a right to know.