Alternatives Pregnancy Advice Centre Confidentiality
The confidentiality policy applies to anyone approaching Alternatives for help, advice or information and not just those being offered a counselling service. It also applies to anyone visiting our premises for any reason. It applies to all those who work as a paid employee or volunteer.
Confidentiality regarding clients and staff will comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 which is designed to provide privacy protection for individuals about whom personal, identifying data is held.
Anyone who uses Alternatives services has the right to be confident that:
- Information given will only be used for the purpose for which it was disclosed and will not be shared with anyone outside Alternatives without the express content of the client.
- Every effort will be made to ensure that records are kept so as to avoid clients being easily identified, and all records will be securely stored.
Information received by the agency from the client will be treated as confidential. Where Alternatives wishes, or has been requested, to disclose information to a third party then the full, informed and written consent of the client will be requested. The client has the right to withhold consent, either with regard to a specific piece of information or more generally. If the consent is withheld then information will not be shared with a third party, except in a very exceptional circumstance.
In some cases clients will provide information in the expectation that this information will be shared outside Alternatives, for example, in the form of a referral. Nevertheless, it will still be made clear to the client what information will be passed on and who will receive it.
- We are committed at every level and in all aspects of the service we offer to provide a confidential service to all clients.
- Confidentiality is not between the individual and the trained advisor, but is between the individual and the organisation. Any discussion of client records within the organisation will be purposeful, sensitive and respectful.
- No conversation about a client should take place outside of the organisation or with anyone who does not work as a volunteer or paid employee.
- In order to provide the best possible support to clients, it may be necessary to share information with a supervisor or manager.
- Information divulged by the client will be treated in the utmost confidence and will not be divulged by the organisation except where extenuating circumstances exist (see below).
- No information about a client will be given to any third party even if the person is a member of the client’s family.
- Information will only be passed on to another agency with the full and informed consent of the client. The client has the right to withhold consent.
- If the trained advisor intends to obtain help from another agency or refer the client to another agency, this must be explained to the client and their permission given.
- Clients aged under 16 are not required to have parental consent to use the service but trained advisors will always encourage these younger clients to discuss the issue with their parents or carer.
In certain circumstances we reserve the right to break confidentiality should this be deemed necessary. These circumstances include:
- Where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child or young person under the age of 18 years is suffering, or is at the risk of suffering, significant harm.
- Where the client has threatened, or is likely, to do serious harm to themselves, a member of staff or another individual.
- Where the client gives information that indicates a possible terrorist attack.
- When instructed by the courts (including in certain limited circumstances by the police, acting on the authority of the courts) to reveal information.
In all of these cases, if a decision has been made to break confidentiality, it will be done only after consultation with the manager or supervisor.
If confidentiality will have to be breached the advisor will make every effort to discuss with the client unless this is deemed inadvisable. The client will be encouraged to contact the relevant involved themselves. If the client is willing to take action, then the decision to breach confidentiality will be made by the organisation, not the individual trained advisor. Trained advisors will keep careful notes of any incidents and all action taken should be recorded, showing:
(i) The extent of the disclosure
(ii) To whom it was made and when
(iii) The reason for disclosure
(iv) Who was consulted before hand
(v) Whether the client was informed, and if so how and when
Staff Awareness and Training
It is important that staff members fully understand and support this Confidentiality Policy.
- All staff will be asked to sign a copy of the confidentiality agreement when joining the centre. Anyone who breaches this contract will be liable to disciplinary action under the Staff Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures.
- Staff will be properly trained and competent to receive confidential information and deal with the issues raised.
- Staff induction involves familiarisation with the Confidentiality Policy.
- Staff receive training and support in its implementation throughout their employment with Alternatives.
This will involve instruction in areas such as:
(i) Details of Alternatives Policy
(ii) Communicating the policy to the clients
(iii) Safe storage of data (both paper and computer records)
(iv) Procedures for note taking
(v) Dealing with telephone enquiries
(vi) Procedures for breach of confidentiality
If the person receiving the information agrees to the conditions about how it should be used, a note should also be made of this. If a client feels that her/his right to confidentiality was not respected by Alternatives, then s/he has the right to invoke the Complaints Procedure. He/she may also be able to take legal action. Clients, who wish to complain about a possible breach of confidentiality, or to pursue the matter legally, should not feel that this puts at risk the service that Alternatives is offering.
Confidentiality – Staff Members
- Staff members also have the right to confidentiality
- With regards to DBS procedures, the Handling and Disclosure policy will be strictly adhered to.
- In order to protect advisors, their personal details should never be divulged to a member of the public.
- On joining, all staff will be asked to complete a form with their contact details.
- All staff training and supervision records will be kept in a secure place.
While it is essential that all workers within the organisation understand and support the Confidentiality Policy and accept responsibility for the security of the information they encounter, this does not mean that all workers have equal access to confidential information. Normally, information will be shared on a “need to know” basis, and good practice will limit to a minimum the sharing of knowledge within the agency.
It is the responsibility of the trained advisor to ensure that clients understand the confidentiality procedures that apply at all stages of their contact.
Confidentiality of Client Records, Statistics, Publicity, Phone Calls and Correspondence
- All client records will be kept securely. It is the responsibility of those on duty to ensure that all written records are locked away at the end of each session.
- Clients records and correspondence will be destroyed after 6 years
- Clients may ask to see their records
- Information used for planning purposes by Alternatives will be presented statistically, or in aggregated form, thus ensuring individuals are not identifiable and preserving confidentiality.
- Where information about specific clients is used for publication in appropriate journals, this will be the clients’ permission and with his or her anonymity preserved.
- All letters and printed emails that disclose personal details of the clients will be kept in a locked filling cabinet.
- If a letter or email is received from a client that could be purposefully used in publicity, permission will be sought from the writer.
- Regarding phone calls, the 1471 call tracing service should not be used. There should be no route by which Alternatives can trace the number of the caller.
- Clients will not be the subject of research or have information about them or photographs of them used in publicity material without their consent.
Providing information to anyone outside the agency
When an enquiry is received from a partner, relative or friend of the client, no information of any kind will be imparted without the clients express, written permission. There are circumstances in which information may be shared with outside organisations:
- Clients referred by other organisations:- The extent of information to be shared with the clients referrer (GP, Social Services, Court, Employer, Probation Service), if any, will be discussed with the client at the earliest opportunity. If the client consents to information being shared, it will be necessary to establish, if it is sufficient for the referrer just to know whether the client is attending the agency or whether more information is required. The full, informed and written consent of the client, in a prescribed form must be obtained.
- Self-referrals:- If the client contacts the centre themselves, information will not normally be shared with a third party. If it becomes necessary to share information outside Alternatives, it will only be done with the full, informed and written consent of the client, in the prescribed form.
- Clients who request contact with other organisations: – This will be regarded by Alternatives as a situation where the client has given consent to information being passed on. However, it is essential that the client is clear how much information is being disclosed and to whom. The worker has the obligation to see that the client is clear about the consequences of disclosures. The full, informed and written consent of the client, in a prescribed form must still be obtained.
Procedure for Breaking Confidentiality to Protect Children
Where, on the basis of information told them by a client, member of staff has reasonable cause to suspect that a child or young person under the age of 18 years is suffering, or is at risk of suffering, significant harm they should make a note, with the date and time on the client form. Unless for some good reason they consider it inappropriate, they should inform the client of this and discuss with them what must be done. They should then immediately notify the Director, one of the Trustees of Alternatives should be informed.
On receiving such notification the Director (or Trustee) will consider whether an “Expression of Concern” needs to be made, in accordance with Lincolnshire Child Protection procedures, to the social services department.