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/contract for services with the practice.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CONFIDENTIALITY
The relationship between dentist and patient is based on the understanding that any information revealed by the patient 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/dental hygienist/dental therapist faces 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.
GENERAL DENTAL COUNCIL
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 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 or dental therapist whose act or omission has breached confidentiality may also be called before the Council.
WHAT IS PERSONAL INFORMATION?
In a dental context personal information held by a dentist about a patient includes: the patient ’ s name, current and previous addresses, bank account/credit card details, telephone number/e-mail address and other means of personal identification such as his or her physical description information that the individual is or has been a patient of the practice or attended, cancelled or failed to attend an appointment on a certain day information concerning the patient ’ s physical, mental or oral health or condition
Security of information
Personal data about you is held in the practice’s computer system and/or in a manual filing system. The information is not accessible to the public and only authorised members of staff have access to it. Our computer system has secure audit trails and we back up information routinely.
Disclosure of information
In order to provide proper and safe dental care, we may need to disclose personal information about you to:
• your general medical practitioner
• the hospital or community dental services
• other health professionals caring for you
• NHS payment authorities
• the Inland Revenue
• the Benefits Agency, where you are claiming exemption or remission from NHS charges
• private dental schemes of which you are a member.
Disclosure will take place on a ‘ need-to-know ’ basis, so that only those individuals/organisations who need to know in order to provide care to you and for the proper administration of Government (whose personnel are covered by strict confidentiality rules ) will be given the information. Only that information that the recipient needs to know will be disclosed. In very limited circumstances or when required by law or a court order, personal data may have to be disclosed to a third party not connected with your health care. In all other situations, disclosure that is not covered by this Code of Practice will only occur when we have your specific consent. Where possible you will be informed of these requests for disclosure.
You have the right of access to the data that we hold about you and to receive a copy. Access may be obtained by making a request in writing and the payment of a fee for access of up to £10 ( for records held on computer ) or £50 ( for those held manually or for computer-held records with non-computer radiographs ) . We will provide a copy of the record within 40 days of receipt of the request and fee (where payable ) and an explanation of your record should you require it.
If you do not agree
If you do not wish personal data that we hold about you to be disclosed or used in the way that is described in this Code of Practice, please discuss the matter with your dentist. You have the right to object, but this may affect our ability to provide you with dental care.