MANCHESTER SPECIFIC INFORMATION
Staff are often required to work within a multi-agency arena and therefore need to be confident about their responsibilities concerning information sharing. Legislation such as the Data Protection Act 1989 (DPA) should not to be seen as an obstacle but as a framework of best practice to support promotion of wellbeing and improving outcomes for adults with care and support needs, their carers and the community.
There is an expectation that from their first point of contact with the service, adults will be helped to understand the information that is being gathered, processed and stored in relation to them. They also have a right to know if and when information held about them is going to be shared, for what purpose it will be shared and with whom (unless there is justified reason to share without informing the individual concerned).
There are certain circumstances when sharing information is not appropriate and doing so can cause detriment to adults and the service. Equally not sharing information can have serious consequences, therefore all staff must use their professional judgement on a case by case basis, and if necessary seek help from their line manager before making a decision. All decisions and outcomes need to be recorded appropriately.
Staff must apply a consistent and responsible approach to information sharing and should ensure that they are familiar with the information sharing procedures and supporting government guidance in relation to information sharing. Where information sharing is carried out as part of integrated, multi-agency care and support services, there will usually be an information sharing agreement that sets out the procedures and working practices specific to the service.
The principles in the guidance are intended to help practitioners share information between organisations. Practitioners should use their judgement when making decisions on what information to share and when and should follow organisation procedures or consult with their manager if in doubt.
Necessary and proportionate: When taking decisions about what information to share, you should consider how much information you need to release. The Data Protection Act 1998 requires you to consider the impact of disclosing information on the information subject and any third parties. Any information shared must be proportionate to the need and level of risk.
Relevant: Only information that is relevant to the purposes should be shared with those who need it. This allows others to do their job effectively and make sound decisions.
Adequate: Information should be adequate for its purpose. Information should be of the right quality to ensure that it can be understood and relied upon.
Accurate: Information should be accurate and up to date and should clearly distinguish between fact and opinion. If the information is historical then this should be explained.
Timely: Information should be shared in a timely fashion to reduce the risk of harm. Timeliness is key in emergency situations and it may not be appropriate to seek consent for information sharing if it could cause delays and therefore harm to an adult. Practitioners should ensure that sufficient information is shared, as well as consider the urgency with which to share it.
Secure: Information must be shared in an appropriate, secure way. Practitioners must always follow their organisation’s policy on security for handling personal information.
Record: Information sharing decisions should be recorded whether or not the decision is taken to share. If the decision is to share, reasons should be cited including what information has been shared and with whom, in line with organisational procedures. If the decision is not to share, it is good practice to record the reasons for this decision and discuss them with the requester.
When asked to share information, you should consider the following questions to help you decide if and when to share. If the decision is taken to share, you should consider how best to effectively share the information.
Q1. Is there a clear and legitimate purpose for sharing information?
Q.2 Does the information enable an individual to be identified?
Q.3 Is the information confidential?
Q.4 Do you have consent?
Q.5 Is there another reason to share information such as to fulfil a public function or to protect the vital interests of the information subject?
Inform the individual that the information has been shared if they were not aware of this, as long as this would not create or increase risk of harm.
All information sharing decisions and reasons must be recorded in line with your organisation or local procedures. If at any stage you are unsure about how or when to share information, you should seek advice and ensure that the outcome of the discussion is recorded.
Agencies should draw up a common agreement relating to confidentiality and setting out the principles governing the sharing of information, based on the welfare of the adult or of other potentially affected adults.
Any agreement should be consistent with the principles set out in the Caldicott review: Information governance in the health and care system, Department of Health (2013) ensuring that:
Where an adult has not given consent to information being disclosed for these purposes, then practitioners must consider whether there is an overriding public interest that would justify information sharing (for example because there is a risk that others are at risk of serious harm). In many cases, the public interest arguments will be clear and practitioners should feel confident to share or not to share. Sometimes, however, the decision can be more difficult and staff should seek advice from their manager, the Information Governance Team, or the Caldicott Guardian.
Decisions about who needs to know and what needs to be known should be taken on a case by case basis, within agency policies and the constraints of the legal framework.
Principles of confidentiality designed to safeguard and promote the interests of an adult 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 welfare of an adult. If it appears to an employee or person in a similar role that such confidentiality rules may be operating against the interests of the adult then a duty arises to make full disclosure in the public interest.
In certain circumstances, it will be necessary to exchange or disclose personal information, which will need to be in accordance with the law on confidentiality and the Data Protection Act 1998 where this applies.
In order to carry out its functions, the SAB will need access to information that a wide number of people or other organisations may hold.
In the past, there have been instances where the withholding of information has prevented organisations being fully able to understand what ‘went wrong’ and so has hindered them identifying, to the best of their ability, the lessons to be applied to prevent or reduce the risks of such cases reoccurring. If someone knows that abuse or neglect is happening they must act upon that knowledge, not wait to be asked for information.
A SAB may request a member of staff from Adult Social Care to supply information to it or to another person. The Care Act 2014 specifies that the person who receives the request must provide the information provided to the SAB if:
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