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Health Soc Care Community. 2008 Jul;16(4):378-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2007.00748.x. Epub 2008 Jan 9.

'Confidentiality smokescreens' and carers for people with mental health problems: the perspectives of professionals.

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1
All Wales Alliance for Research and Development in Health and Social Care, Institute of Medical and Social Care Research, University of Wales, Bangor, Wales. btgray@hotmail.com

Abstract

This paper reports on some of the findings from a collaborative study funded by the Big Lottery and led by Crossroads Caring for Carers about carers for people with mental health problems. The protection and use of information in mental health are firmly rooted in ethics and professional codes, law and policy, as well as values and professional practice. While government initiatives have attempted to augment the role and rights of carers, policy guidance involving information sharing between professionals and carers has failed to deal with the practical dilemmas of patient confidentiality. Professional codes and training neither explore nor develop the moral and ethical ground that stands between the service user's need for privacy and the carer's need for information. Policy and training guidance on confidentiality is scattered, ambiguous, confusing for professionals and inconsistent. There is uncertainty in practice about the information that professionals may share, and many professionals do not take into account carers' rights, not least to basic information to help them care for service users. 'Confidentiality smokescreens' may sometimes lead to information being withheld from carers. Professionals sometimes find it easier and safer to say nothing. In order to explore these issues from the perspectives of professionals, 65 participants were interviewed. The sample included directors and senior staff from the health, social care and voluntary sectors. Respondents were asked to comment at length on their understanding of confidentiality and information sharing with carers. Findings highlight confidentiality smokescreens that erect barriers that limit effective information sharing; issues involving confidentiality, risk management and carers in crisis; examples of good practice; and the need for the training of professionals on confidentiality issues and the rights of carers. This paper explores the challenge of confidentiality smokescreens from the perspective of professionals, and draws out implications for professional practice and training.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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