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Confidentiality and Information-Sharing

Many family members report that they cannot get the information they need to enable them to help their relative, or that they feel excluded from their care. This can be because professionals want to protect the privacy of the person with mental health difficulties, and in fact have a duty to do so.

Conflicts about sharing information can be a source of concern – getting the balance between the service user’s right to privacy and the carer’s need for information. Respecting the confidentiality of the service user is an important part of the trust between the person and their health care professionals. However, there are times when family and friends may wish to know as much as possible to help and support their loved one and to keep them safe.

Everyone has the right to keep certain information private. All too often however, the interpretation of this right in healthcare systems blocks information that is not sensitive being shared with close relatives or friends. For example, a mental health professional can share general information about a particular disorder such as depression, and what helps someone who is depressed to feel better, without breaking confidentiality rules.

This page aims to provide resources that focus on this topic, what information can be shared and what cannot, and where to find out more about this issue.

Rethink Carers and Confidentiality information – for carers

Some interesting points of reference are:

The British Journal of Psychiatry

Commonsense Confidentiality : A guide for carers, family and friends (132.3 KiB)

This leaflet has been designed by the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and is an easy-to-read guide to best practice in sharing information.

Carers Trust

Carers Trust is a major charity for, with and about carers.

The Triangle of Care is a Carers Trust initiative – developed by carers and staff to improve partnership working between service users and their carers and healthcare providers.

It offers a membership scheme to help mental health trusts to ensure the triangle of care standards are achieved.  One important standard is number 3: ‘Policy and practice protocols re: confidentiality and sharing information.’

Sharing Mental Health Information With Carers : pointers to good practice for service providers (407.2 KiB)

Research summarised in this briefing paper above was carried out by the Health Services Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London and Rethink

Staff employed by the Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust can contact Paula Conneely at paula.conneely1@nhs.net for advice and guidance on how to register. Services interested in obtaining a site licence can find more information on the sites homepage or can contact Rethink Mental Illness directly at info@carersandconfidentiality.org.uk.

Helpful services for carers
Recovery resources for professionals