Information in a patient’s record is subject to professional, ethical and legal duties of confidentiality. Most patients understand and expect that some confidential information will be shared between health and social care professionals in order to provide their care.
As a regulated optical professional you may rely on implied consent to share confidential information with those who are providing (or supporting the provision of) direct care to the patient if you are satisfied that all of the following apply:
the person accessing or receiving the information is providing or supporting the patient’s care;
information is readily available to patients explaining how their information will be used (for example, in leaflets, posters, on websites or face to face), and they have the right to object;
the patient has not objected; and
that anyone to whom confidential information is disclosed understands that it is given to them in confidence, which they must respect.
Patients should not be surprised to learn about how their personal information is being used, accessed or disclosed. If information is being used in ways that patients would not reasonably expect, you should seek explicit consent for this from the patient.
The patient has the right for their wishes to be respected if they object to particular personal information being shared within your own healthcare team or with others involved in their care – unless disclosure would be justified in the public interest, is required by law, or it is in the best interests of a patient who lacks capacity to make the decision in order to prevent harm.
If a patient cannot be informed about the disclosure of their information, for example, in an emergency, you should pass relevant information promptly to those providing care. If and when the patient is capable of understanding, you should tell them how their personal information was disclosed if it was in a way they would not reasonably expect.