At this practice the need for the strict confidentiality of personal information about patients is taken very seriously. This document sets out our policy for maintaining confidentiality and all members of the practice team must comply with these safeguards as part of their contract of employment.
The relationship between dentist and patient is based on the understanding that any information revealed to the dentist will not be divulged without the patient’s consent. Patients have the right to privacy and it is vital that they give the dentist full information on their state of health to ensure that treatment is carried out safely. The intensely personal nature of health information means that many patients would be reluctant to provide the dentist with information if they were not sure that it would not be passed on. If confidentiality is breached, the dentist / hygienist face investigation by the General Dental Council and possible erasure from the Dentists Register / Dental Auxiliaries Roll and may also face legal action by the patient for damages and, for dentists, prosecution for Breach of the 1998 Data Protection Act.
All staff must follow the General Dental Council’s rules for maintaining patient confidentiality:
‘The dentist/patient relationship is founded on trust and a dentist should not disclose to a third party information about a patient acquired in a professional capacity without the permission of the patient. To do so may lead to a charge of serious professional misconduct. A dentist should be aware that the duty of confidentiality extends to all other members of the dental team… There may, however, be circumstances in which the public interest outweighs a dentist’s duty of confidentiality and in which disclosure would be justified…Communications with patients should not compromise patient confidentiality. In the interests of security and confidentiality, for example, it is advisable that all postal communications to patients are sent in sealed envelopes.’
If confidentiality is breached, it is the patient’s dentist who is responsible to the Council. An enrolled dental hygienist whose act or omission has breached confidentiality may also be called before the Council.
In a dental context, personal information held by a dentist about a patient includes:
This practice has adopted the following three principles of confidentiality:
Personal information about a patient:
There are certain restricted circumstances in which a dentist may decide to disclose information to a third party or may be required to disclose by law. Responsibility for disclosure rests with the patient’s dentist and under no circumstances can any other member of staff make a decision to disclose.
There are certain circumstances where the wider public interest outweighs the rights of the patient to confidentiality. This might include cases where disclosure would prevent a serious future risk to the public or assist in the prevention or prosecution of serious crime.
There are certain circumstances when personal information can be disclosed:
The Practice’s Data Protection Code of Practice details the required procedures to ensure that we comply with the 1998 Data Protection Act. It is a condition of employment that everyone at the practice complies with the Code of Practice.
Patients have the right of access to their health records held on paper or computer. A request from a patient to see records or for a copy must be referred to the patient’s dentist. The patient should be given the opportunity of coming into the practice to discuss the records and will then be given a photocopy. Care should be taken to ensure that the individual seeking access is the patient in question and where necessary the practice will seek information from the patient to confirm identity. The copy of the record must be supplied within forty days of payment of the fee and receipt of identifying information if this is requested.
Access may be obtained by making a request in writing and the payment of a fee for access of up to £10. We will provide a copy of the record within 40 days of the request and fee (where payable) and an explanation of your record should you require it.
The fact that the patients have the right of access to their records makes it essential that information is properly recorded. Records must be:
The principles of confidentiality give rise to a number of practice rules that everyone in the practice must observe:
If, after investigation, a member of staff is found to have breached patient confidentiality or this policy, they shall be liable to summary dismissal in accordance with the practice’s disciplinary policy.