Protecting adults at risk in London: Good practice resource
Information sharing: Introduction
There is a recognition among partner agencies of the value of working together as a means of protecting the public, and the importance of information sharing as a means to achieve excellent partnerships. Agencies should seek to share information with partners where there is a lawful reason to do so and when there is an opportunity to make a positive impact on public protection, in keeping with the key safeguarding principle of partnership.
The most recent discussion of all aspects of patient-identifiable information and how this is to be protected is to be found in the Caldicott Committee Report on the review of patient-identifiable information (3) The report recognises that confidential patient information may need to be disclosed in the best interests of the patient, and discusses in what circumstances this may be appropriate and what safeguards need to be observed.
The principles can be summarised as:
- information will only be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis
- confidentiality must not be confused with secrecy
- informed consent should be obtained but, if this is not possible and other vulnerable adults are at risk, it may be necessary to override the requirement
- it is inappropriate for agencies to give assurances of absolute confidentiality in cases where there are concerns about abuse, particularly in those situations where other vulnerable people may be at risk.
Decisions about who needs to know and what needs to be known should be taken on a case-by-case basis, in line with agency policies and the constraints of the legal framework.
Principles of confidentiality designed to safeguard and promote the interests of service users and patients should not be confused with those designed to protect the management interests of an organisation. These have a legitimate role but must never be allowed to conflict with the interests of service users. If it appears to an employee or person in a similar role that such confidentiality rules may be operating against the interests of vulnerable adults, then a duty arises to make full disclosure in the public interest (4).