One of the policies and procedures a home care business must have is the Confidentiality Policy and Procedure.
Below is the Confidentiality Policy and Procedure used by Quality Home Care which you are welcome to adapt to suit your own business needs. You can use it as a starting point to develop your own Confidentiality Policy and Procedure.
QUALITY HOME CARE:
Quality Home Care acknowledges that confidentiality is a major issue and that breaches in any procedure may have wide ranging and serious consequences. Therefore the company believes that staff should be fully trained as to the principles of confidentiality and that all staff should recognise its ongoing importance. Confidentiality covers everyone involved in Quality Homecare including employees, members of customers’ families and customers themselves.
Customers have a right to be treated with respect and dignity and for their privacy and human rights to be upheld and respected. This not only relates to the direct care and support we provide to people but also in respect of how we maintain any information held about them, the type of information we hold, the way it is recorded, how it is shared and who it is shared with.
Our staff must also take into account the customers wishes and preferences regarding any cultural or religious beliefs and any other matters of equality when ensuring their confidentiality is respected.
All incidents requiring notification to the CQC (Care Quality Commission) or other agencies (for example local authority safeguarding referrals) must not identify any person and a unique identifier or code must be used and a record kept of such codes at the office as required by the regulatory body.
Customers, Friends and Families
The company and its employees need to know a considerable amount of information about its customers. Not only medical information is divulged, but weekly patterns of shopping, day centre visits or frequent visitors are all part of the information that Quality Homecare needs. There is also information which may be disseminated on a more informal basis, in conversation with care workers, which may be about opinions of others or personal history.
All of this must be kept confidential at all times. Care workers are instructed not to discuss any customer information whatsoever except in a professional capacity with the registered manager or director and never in public. There is an expectation that the majority of such conversations will take place in the office environment.
Customers’ relatives should be made aware of our confidentiality policy in advance in order that they (and others) are aware we simply cannot disclose confidential information relating to the customer (for example, they do not have any rights to access information purely as a result of their relationship to the customer.)
Customers have a right to privacy. This may be about privacy of their information but equally it must be born in mind that frequent invasions of their privacy by supervisors, assessors etc. may also be unacceptable and viewed as an issue of confidentiality. Customers must always be asked if and when a visit from such people is acceptable and convenient. Only in extreme cases (such as when there is concern for the welfare of the customers) will the company insist upon a visit. Quality Homecare recognises that there is no legal right to insist upon acceptance.
All employees are required to give extensive information before their employment can be confirmed. They are also required to undergo an enhanced level check criminal record check. This information is held securely (as is any ongoing information about their employment) and is only discussed with non-directors on a ‘need to know’ basis.
Administrative staff, care managers, supervisors and coordinators enjoy the same rights and their files are held under the control by a director of the company to offer further protection.
Access to records
Under Data Protection legislation, all individuals who have information held about them by others have the right to check that information for accuracy. If a customer or a care worker should wish to do this they should contact their care manager and ask for an appointment to visit the office to check their file.
Files will not be allowed to leave the building (except in circumstances ) and any copies taken of information must be listed and added to the file in question. The information will not be used to contact the individual concerned (outside normal activity concerning Quality Homecare’s business) without the prior permission of the person concerned.
Access to customers’ records must be managed and monitored by the care manager or supervisor. Inappropriate access must not be given to staff or third parties. Access to and sharing of any information must be agreed with the customer on every occasion.
Capacity and consent
In situations where a customer lacks capacity the Mental Capacity Act 2005, test of ‘best interests’ may justify disclosure of personal information. An assessment of capacity may require the sharing of information amongst health and social care professionals but only as much information as necessary should be divulged and these decisions must be recorded in the customers file.
If a person has been appointed who has Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) then they will determine if information can be disclosed and the registered manager/director must consult with them before sharing any information. If the customer does not have an attorney with Lasting Power of Attorney or an identified decision-maker then the registered manager/director must determine what is in the customer’s best interests (in consultation with significant others involved with the person for example, advocates or local authority care managers as appropriate) in disclosing information and also the amount of information to be disclosed.
It may be necessary to involve an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) where the legislation dictates this. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 makes provisions for an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) Service; this service provides an independent safeguard to support particular vulnerable people who lack capacity to make important decisions who have no-one to appropriately consult regarding certain decisions. The referral to an IMCA service should be made by the relevant local authority or health authority involved in the persons care as required by their obligations under the Act.
Breach of Confidentiality
A breach of confidentiality is viewed by the company as a serious matter and may be considered as gross misconduct and lead to dismissal. However, this does not compromise the employment rights of an individual who acts as a whistleblower.
Storage of information
Records must be maintained safely in the customer’s home in place agreed with the customer and/or their representative. There must always be an audit trail of no less than one month’s records available in the customer’s home.
With the Quality Homecare office all records about both customers and staff must be securely and confidentially stored in a locked filing cabinet which in turn is protected by a security system. The most senior person on duty must ensure that a security check is completed at the end of office hours which includes checking that the filing cabinets are locked. The key to the cabinet(s) must not be left lying around and accessible in the event of a break-in to the office.
Records in Transit
If the files are removed from the office for any reason they must be kept in a locked case unless directly in use. Any records removed from the customer’s home must be placed and transported in the Quality Homecare Folder for safety, security and concealment. Staff must place the folder in the boot of the car as opposed to leaving the folder on display within the car and visible to members of the public. Loose papers must not be transported and all records must be secured in the Quality Homecare folder.
Records must be taken straight from the customers’ homes to the Quality Homecare office on the same day and placed in the customers file. Staff must not take customers records home overnight under any circumstances, other than the designated person with the information required for emergency and on-call purposes.
Information required for on-call purposes must be securely kept in the on-call briefcase and due regard given to its security and confidentiality during transit.