How To Maintain Confidentiality in Health and Social Care?

In health and social care, maintaining confidentiality is a vital part of confirming the trust and the well-being of the individuals. That’s why how can you maintain confidentiality in health and social care? – should be a critical concern for the professionals in this care sector. 

In brief, to maintain confidentiality in health and social care, you should be informed about the laws and regulations first. Moreover, obtaining informed consent, recording information wisely, having access control, and so on are essential to maintain confidentiality.

However, that’s not enough to clarify the whole matter. As the discussion goes on, we’ll cover comprehensively essential guidelines and best practices. So, read on.

1. Why Is Confidentiality Important In Health And Social Care?

Confidentiality is important in health and social care for some reasons. Here are some of them. 

  • Maintaining confidentiality in health and social care ensures that the individuals feel comfortable and safe in sharing the information with the professional. 
  • It is the legal and ethical duty of health and social care professionals to maintain confidentiality and protect privacy. 
  • Protecting privacy and confidentiality ensures effective collaboration between health and social care professionals and the service users.
  • It also prevents the risk of discrimination and stigma that an individual may face due to his health condition and social circumstances.
Confidential medical papers

2. How To Maintain Confidentiality in Health and Social Care?

Confidentiality in health and social care is a requirement in terms of both legally and respectfully. 

According to the Human Rights Act (1998), every individual has the right to respect their private and family life. They can hold their personal information confidently. 

The Care Act (2014) says that personal confidential data access has to be on a strict need-to-know basis.

The Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Act 2015 is concerned with the health and social services user’s integration of data. Ultimately it states the importance of maintaining confidentiality in health and social care. 

Here are tips and tricks on how you can maintain confidentiality. 

2.1 Get Informed With Laws And Principles 

When the matter is about ensuring the confidentiality of the patients, the first step is to familiarize yourself with the laws and principles of confidentiality in health and social care. 

For example, the HSCIC guide to confidentiality 2013 in health and social care covers five principles. 

  • Confidential information of the patients or the service users should be respected and confidentially treated. 
  • The care team members can share confidential information when it is required for the effective and safe care of the individual. 
  • When the information is shared for the benefit of the community it should be anonymized.
  • The right of an individual to object to the sharing of their confidential information should be respected. 
  • Health and social care organizations should set policies, procedures, and systems in the workplace so that everyone follows the rules for confidentiality. 

2.2 Secure Record Keeping 

You have to ensure that the records of all the clients and patients are stored securely. For this, you can keep the physical records in secure rooms or locked cabinets and electronic records in strong password-protected, and secure servers. 

2.3 Record Information Wisely 

In order to maintain confidentiality in the health and social care sector you should only record the information of the individual that is relevant and necessary. 

Don’t make a record of everything and ensure the protection of the information. You should take extra precaution about it to protect the privacy of the patient. 

2.4 Access Control

The organization should implement strict access control. Only those who should be granted access to the information who are the authorized personnel and have a legitimate reason for accessing the information. For this, you can use unique passwords or names for each staff member.  

2.5 Share What’s A Must 

If you have to share the information, only share that information that is for the sake of the individual or the community. 

You should share sensitive information only to those who are involved in the care of the individual. Never discuss sensitive information in public areas and maintain the privacy rules. 

2.6 Obtain Informed Consent 

Before sharing the information of the service users to anyone else, must obtain an informed and written consent of them. explain to them the purpose of your sharing and with whom you are going to share the information. 

2.7 Document Disposal 

Ensure the safe disposal of the physical records of the service users. Develop safe procedures like professional document destruction services or shredders so that you can prevent the falling of the information into the wrong hands. 

2.8 Establish Reporting Anonymously 

To maintain confidentiality in the health and social care sector, establish a system where one can report the breaching of confidentiality anonymously. It will be a great help to identify and take action promptly. 

2.9 Training And Awareness 

Last but not least, regularly train and aware yourself as well as your staff member about the confidentiality policies. 

Keep yourself updated about the legislation and the best practices. For this, you can take high-rated courses about maintaining confidentiality in health and social care. 

Through these courses, you can gain experience and interact with the experts from which you can get valuable insights about confidentiality in health and social care.  

So, all in all, check out the NHS do’s and don’t for maintaining confidentiality in health and social care settings as a quick checklist.

NHS Do's and Don'ts table

3. What If The Confidentiality Is Broken  in Health and Social Care?

When a health and social care worker breaks confidentiality willingly or unwillingly, they have to be ready to deal with the consequences and be sorry for the mistakes. What can be those consequences, let’s see it here. 

3.1 Legal Consequences 

When a health and social care worker violates the laws and regulations, he or she is charged with a legal fine, penalties, or criminal charges. 

The charged individual can be fined up to $250,000 according to HIPAA violations and enforcement. He or she may also be charged for 10 years in prison for employees who wrongfully disclose Protected Health Information. 

3.2 Professional Consequences 

Violating confidentiality is considered a serious ethical violation which can lead to professional consequences. For instance, loss of licensure, disciplinary actions, or impact on the professional reputation. 

When such breaches happen it not only affects the charged person but also the healthcare or social care organization that is responsible for protecting the information.

And of course, don’t forget that when a health and social care worker breaches confidentiality he or she will lose the trust of your current and potential patients or service users. 

3.3 Psychological And Emotional Consequences 

Not only the breaching confidentiality lead to legal or professional consequences but also impacts psychologically and emotionally for the charged person. 

It may result in feeling embarrassment, distress, or shame especially when the information is stigmatized.

That’s why health and social care professionals must know and follow the guidelines of confidentiality. 

4. When Confidentiality Can Be Broken In Health And Social Care?

Gaining patient trust

In a healthcare setting, disclosing even a hint of information about the individual is not allowed under his care. 

However, in some exceptional circumstances, confidentiality can be broken in health and social care when it is for the sake of the general public or to protect the person himself. 

And it can be done only in three crucial situations. 

  • First – Patient information can be disclosed if it is a court order
  • Second – If the person is a potential threat to society, health information can be disclosed, such as in sociopathic psychotic tendencies.
  • Third – The other one is the requirement by the law, for instance, reporting communicable diseases.

5. FAQs

Now, let us highlight the answers to the queries that are mostly asked by cautious people about confidentiality. Hope it will be helpful to know more. 

5.1 How do you maintain patient confidentiality in healthcare?

Always be informed of the laws and regulations of confidentiality. Never share the information about the patients without their consent. Moreover, you should not share the information until it is a must. 

5.2 What is an example of confidentiality in healthcare?

For an example of confidentiality in healthcare, if a service user asks for the information of another service user, the healthcare worker should tell them that they can’t share the information until it is a must. 

5.3 What is a simple way of improving confidentiality?

A way of improving confidentiality is to always be aware of your surroundings whenever you talk about the personal information of your clients. Discuss the sensitive information in a private setting and ensure that only the authorized personnel are the earshot. 

6. Final Words 

In health and social care, maintaining confidentiality is a responsibility and as a professional in this care sector, you must have to do it. 

Always be cautious about gaining and sharing information about the individuals. Always take consent of the individual about sharing the information most importantly never share any personal information until it is a must. 

Ultimately, following the best practices of maintaining confidentiality not only upholds the trust of the patients but also shows professionalism as a care worker in health and social care.


Learn ethical record keeping, secure communication & legal guidelines.
June 4, 2024