- What is confidential information?
- When is confidence breached?
- When can confidential information be shared without consent?
- Sharing without consent in the public interest
- What factors are important to a practitioner before deciding to share confidential information?
- What are different types of circumstances that are relevant to confidentiality?
- Leaflets and forms
What is confidential information?
Confidential information is:
- personal information of a private or sensitive nature; and
- information that is not already lawfully in the public domain or readily available from another public source; and
- information that has been shared in circumstances where you could reasonably expect that it would not be shared with others.
When is confidence breached?
Confidence is only breached (or broken) where the sharing of confidential information is not authorised by the person who provided it or to whom it relates.
When can confidential information be shared without consent?
Practitioners may lawfully share confidential information if it can be justified in the public interest.
Sharing without consent in the public interest
It is possible to identify some circumstances in which sharing confidential information without consent will normally be justified in the public interest. These are:
- When there is evidence that a child is suffering or is at risk of suffering significant harm.
- Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child may be suffering or at risk of significant harm.
- To prevent significant harm arising to children and young people or serious harm to adults, including through the prevention, detection and prosecution of serious crime.
- Serious crime for the purposes of this guidance means any crime which causes or is likely to cause significant harm to a child or young person or serious harm to an adult.
What factors are important to a practitioner before deciding to share confidential information?
The key factors in deciding whether or not to share confidential information are necessity and proportionality, ie;. whether the proposed sharing is a proportionate response to the need to protect the public interest in question, for example to take action to protect the person, to promote a person's safety and well-being or to prevent crime and disorder. In making the decision, practitioners must weigh up what might happen if the information is shared against what might happen if it is not, and make a decision based on a reasonable judgement.
What are different types of circumstances that are relevant to confidentiality?
One is where a formal confidential relationship exists, such as the one between yourselves and a doctor, lawyer, social worker or counsellor. It is generally accepted that information is provided in these relationships is in confidence. In these circumstances, all information provided by yourself needs to be treated as confidential. This is regardless of whether or not the information is directly relevant to the medical, social care or personal matter that is the main reason for the relationship.
Sometimes you may not specifically ask for information to be kept confidential when discussing you own issues or pass on information about others, but you may assume that personal information will be treated as confidential.
Information about yourself as an individual or your family is confidential to the agency as a whole, and not to the individual practitioners. However, individual practitioners do have a responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of the information. They should only share confidential information with other practitioners in the same agency or team for genuine purposes, for example, to seek advice on a particular case or ensure cover for work while on leave.
Public bodies that hold information of a private or sensitive nature about individuals for the purposes of carrying out their functions (for example children's social care, young people's health services or adult mental health services) may also owe a duty of confidentiality, as people have provided information on the understanding that it will be used for those purposes.
Leaflets and forms
There are a number of leaflets published by Surrey County Council related to information sharing. These are available to download, but should you require the information in another format please call 03456 009 009. Information about yourself as an individual or your family is confidential to the agency as a whole, and not to the individual practitioners. However, individual practitioners do have a responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of the information. They should only share confidential information with other practitioners in the same agency or team for genuine purposes, for example, to seek advice on a particular case or ensure cover for work while on leave.
Files available to download
Protecting your information leaflet (PDF)
This leaflet explains access by Surrey County Council (SCC) employees to your personal information, the duty of confidentiality, electronic and paper records and our Data Handling Guarantee.
Sharing your information (PDF)
A leaflet for service users, their families and carers about what information we hold and how we share information.