Privacy Policy

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Privacy Policy

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 dental practices have a duty to keep personal data about their patients safe and secure and to ensure it is only accessed by persons who need to see it for the purposes of providing safe, effective care.

Registered dental professionals have an ethical and legal duty to keep all patient information confidential.

The relationship between clinician and patient is based on the understanding that any information revealed by the patient to the clinician will not be divulged without the patient’s consent.

At this practice, we maintain a strict policy in respect of patient confidentiality. All team members understand the importance of strict patient confidentiality and ensure this is maintained at all times; compliance with this policy is a condition of employment of all team members.

The aim of this policy is to ensure that:

  • all dental care professionals understand their ethical duty to ensure they are familiar with and comply with the GDC’s standards guidance
  • all team members also follow this guidance and ensure they maintain patient’s confidentiality at all times
  • every member of the team adopts the three principles of confidentiality and ensures that personal information about a patient:
  • Is confidential in respect of that patient and to those providing the patient with health care
  • Should only be disclosed to those who would be unable to provide effective care and treatment without that information (the need-to-know concept)
  • Such information should not be disclosed to third parties without the consent of the patient except in certain specific circumstances described in this policy.

This Policy was implemented on: 20/12/17

This policy and relevant procedures will be reviewed annually and are due for review

on: 20/12/18 or prior to this date in accordance with new guidance or legislative changes.

Confidentiality

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 dental practices have a duty to keep personal data about their patients safe and secure and to ensure it is only accessed by persons who need to see it for the purposes of providing safe, effective care.

Registered dental professionals have an ethical and legal duty to keep all patient information confidential. The General Dental Council (GDC) issues standards guidance for dental professionals and the publication Standards for the Dental Team Principle 4 – Maintain and protect patients information identifies the ethical issues around protecting the confidentiality of patients’ information.

Dental practices are also required to ensure that they do not ‘advertise’ to other patients or the public that a certain person is a patient of the practice or that they have had appointments or have appointments due. This means that daylists, appointment cards that identify the patient and record cards must not be seen by other patients of the practice. It is also important that confidential telephone calls that name a particular patient are not held in earshot of other patients. Messages should not be left with a 3rd party confirming or cancelling appointments.

The importance of confidentiality

The relationship between clinician and patient is based on the understanding that any information revealed by the patient to the clinician will not be divulged without the patient’s consent. Patients have the right to privacy and it is vital that they give the clinician full information on their state of health to ensure that treatment is carried out safely and effectively. The intensely personal nature of health information means that many patients would be reluctant to provide the clinician with information if they felt the information would be passed on.

If confidentiality is breached a dental professional may face investigation by the GDC with possible erasure from the dentists register or the dental auxiliaries roll. In addition, they may also face legal action by the patient for damages and, for dentists, prosecution for breach of the Data Protection Act (1998).

If, after investigation, any team member is found to have breached patient confidentiality or the Confidentiality Policy, he or she shall be liable to summary dismissal in accordance with the company’s disciplinary policy.

GDC standards guidance

Dental care professionals have an ethical and legal duty to ensure they are familiar with, and comply with the GDC’s standards guidance contained in their publication Standards for the Dental Team Principle 4 – Maintain and protect patients’ information. All practice team members must also follow this guidance and ensure that they maintain patient confidentiality. Copies of this publication are available as PDF downloads from the GDC’s website at www.gdc-uk.org or by requesting a printed copy via email from communications@gdc-uk.org or by telephoning 020 7167 6000.

Disclosure to third parties

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 team member make a decision to disclose information.

In any circumstance where a dentist decides to release confidential information, they should be prepared to explain and justify their decision and any action they take.

Any dentist who is unsure of whether they should or should not release confidential information about a patient should obtain advice from their defence organisation.

A brief summary of the circumstances is given below.

When disclosure can be made

There are circumstances when personal information can be disclosed:

  • Where expressly the patient has given consent to the disclosure. Note -Patients must be given the opportunity to withhold permission
  • Where disclosure is necessary for the purpose of enabling someone else to provide health care to the patient and the patient has consented to this sharing of information
  • 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.

Where disclosure is required by statute or is ordered by a court of law, only release the minimum information needed to follow the order

Confidentiality agreement

All Highfield Dental & Facial Clinic’s team members are also bound by a confidentiality agreement, as part of their conditions of engagement. Any breach of confidentiality is viewed extremely seriously and is likely to result in disciplinary proceedings.

How to achieve confidentiality 

It does not matter whether records are stored as paper records or electronically, the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 apply equally. The method of achieving confidentiality will obviously differ depending on whether records are paper or electronic so both methods will be discussed.

Paper records

Paper records should be stored in lockable, fire-proof filing cabinets that are locked overnight and when the practice is unattended. This is something that the practice is currently working towards.

They should not be stored:

  • On circular retrieval systems that are not lockable
  • In an unsecured area that patients or the public have access to
  • In cardboard boxes
  • In plastic boxes

 Electronic records

Electronic patient records should be password protected with restricted access. Records should be backed up daily with backups stored off the premises. It should not be possible to alter records after they have been saved. Any changes required to records should be dated and contain a note stating that they are additional to the contemporaneously made records.