Each of the agencies who are party to the Adult Abuse policy must have their own policies, professional codes of conduct and procedures for ensuring that users receive a confidential service. It is important that staff have due regard to their own agencies' policies when dealing with issues of confidentiality in the context of adult protection work.
There are some key principles, which will be common to all policies of the agencies involved. These principles can be summarised as follows:
- Within agencies information can be shared as long as it is processed for the purpose for which it was obtained
- Under the Data Protection act 1998, personal information cannot be shared unless the requisite consent has been given by the data subject or one of the exemptions to non disclosure applies (as above)
- If you do not have specific consent from the service user to share his/her personal information, any sharing of information must be in accordance with terms and conditions of the Data Protection Act 1998 - and the Data Protection (Subject Access Modification) (Social Work) Order 2000 statutory instrument 2000 415.
- Decisions must be clearly recorded.
- Any action taken, including sharing of information, must be proportionate.
- Every case needs to be judged according to its merits.
Any information disclosed should be:
- clear regarding the nature of the problem and purpose of sharing information
- based on fact, not supposition or rumour
- restricted to those with a legitimate need to know
- strictly limited to the needs of the situation at that time
- recorded in writing with reasons stated
Where the data subject lacks mental capacity
Generally the first step is to consider whether the data subject can give consent to disclosure of information. In some instances the data subject will not have the capacity to consent to disclosure of personal information relating to them. Where this is the case any disclosure of information needs to be considered against the conditions set out in the Data Protection Act. This will assist in considering issues such as Best Interests and Need to Know.
A person may positively refuse to give consent to disclosure
A person’s right to confidentiality is not absolute and may be overridden where there is evidence that sharing information is necessary in exceptional cases. This decision will have regard to the Data Protection Act.