Quality practice in care settings

Confidentiality has a very broad significance and meaning, especially in health and social care settings. Confidentiality is of the utmost importance; for the service user it means being able to say something without fear of it going any further. It’s being confident that your details are secure and private. For the care worker it’s where you keep other peoples personal information secure and secret. Confidentiality is where discretion is always maintained. Personal, private, restricted and secret are a few very significant, alternative meanings surrounding the word confidential that are provided in the thesaurus!

Any service user in your care has the right to feel secure; they need to be able to trust you with a conviction that you will not betray that trust. The carer plays a huge part in the service user’s life, this needs to be a positive role and never abused. The service users at Queenslands are vulnerable individuals that need to be able to confide in their carers and feel secure. As the carer workers role can sometimes be intimate, this just adds to the need for complete trust.

You too, as a carer would experience a great deal of satisfaction knowing that the people you care for do and can trust you completely. There is a situation in the case study where service user’s records are left lying on a tea trolley in one of the television rooms (note: high traffic area) while a care worker talked loudly about a service user’s bank account. This is poor practice at its worst. A total breach of confidentiality! Anybody could see that patients details and abuse the information; bank details with the account holders’ address provide the perfect ingredients for credit card fraud, money laundering and so on.

What arrangements should care settings such as Queenslands make to ensure good practice in dealing with confidentiality? The owner and/or Rose Wallace who is the manager of Queenslands should provide staff with appropriate training so that they can acquire the skills needed to maintain confidentiality and a sound knowledge of the importance of confidentiality. It’s very difficult to completely respect and protect something that you know nothing or little about. Confidentiality policies should be displayed and distributed to all staff providing set guidelines.

The policy should also be explained and offered to the service user and their next of kin so that they know their personal details are or should be protected by the carer, the residence they live in (Queenslands) and ultimately the law. Service users and their close family should be aware of this protection as it may offer security. They also need to know they have rights if confidentiality is breached in any way. Where could a care worker seek support and advice if he/she had a problem when handling confidential information?

Any concerns arising from a confidential conversation can be discussed with appropriate colleagues; for example, a senior member of staff, line manager, etc. In many circumstances, this will provide the support and assistance the care worker may need in order to decide what is in the best interests of the individual. As far as possible, however, information, which would disclose the identity of the individual, should not be passed on.

In more desperate situations, it may not be possible to approach a senior member of staff or colleague. Here, the trade union or governing bodies could be contacted. This could be done anonymously initially without disclosing any personal details of yourself or the other person or people concerned to gain advice and support. Staff at Queenslands need to be aware of the laws that deal with issues of confidentiality. What are these laws and how should they be applied at Queenslands?

Confidentiality is protected by common law; the legal obligation to maintain confidentiality applies to everything that is not public knowledge. If you have required information because of your professional role and you are entrusted with such information, then you are obligated to protect its privacy. The Human Rights Act 1998 states that everybody has a basic right to respect for privacy and family life. The Data Protection Act 1998 strengthens the controls around the processing (collection, storage, handling and disclosure) of personal data.

If confidentiality is breached under any of these legislations the service user can sue through a civil court and possibly receive compensation or at least submit a formal complaint to a relevant body. Either way the care worker who discloses information without consent would receive disciplinary action or even dismissal. All people have a basic human right to have their privacy respected. All you need to do is imagine how you would like your own personal details handled to understand the importance of confidentiality. There are of course occasions when there is a legal obligation to disclose information. Such occasions involve child protection issues, terrorism, where any person is in danger etc.

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