Staff that gossip about patients and break patient confidentiality

imagesWorking in a surgery or hospital you get to see and hear all sorts of situations that occur everyday. Patients come in all shapes and sizes and all have a different story to tell – but just how confident are you that their “story” is kept within the surgery/hospital walls.

Figures show that in the past 12 months (figures taken at October 2011) doctors, nurses and admin workers breached patients’ confidentiality some 802 times and that is probably a small amount of what is being breached. ***

There were at least 23 incidents where staff had openly discussed patients with colleagues, friends and family on websites such as Facebook.

There were also 91 incidents where NHS staff admitted to snooping through the medical files of their own colleagues.

I actually had the unfortunate task of speaking to, and going through the correct procedures and dismissing a member of staff due to her looking at a neighbours records, (to what she admitted doing) and then commenting on them to another member of staff. Sadly it wasn’t the first time she had been seen to have done this – staff grew concerned about the amount of time she was taking to doing the scanning – it later came out that she was reading most of the letters to gain information on people she knew in the local area then discussing this with other reception staff.

This receptionist had no excuse as she had gone through several training sessions one of them being patient confidentiality where she was clearly told that situations like this would be a breach of patient confidentiality. Unfortunately she didn’t feel that she had actually done anything wrong and it involved a tribunal case – to which she didn’t win.

We produced documents that she had signed a patient confidentiality statement, and also produced proof that she had been given appropriate training in patient confidentiality. There was no way she could have said that she “didn’t know”

This wasn’t nice for me as a Manager to have to deal with, for the Receptionist that lost her job (albeit it she was in the wrong). It also caused a lot of upheaval for her fellow team members as they had been witness to her doing this and of course having to make written statements accordingly.

It caused the practice lot of expense and extra workload for the staff doctor and myself. But most of all a patient at our practice had information about him discussed within staff members – which just isn’t good enough.

It is also not just admin staff that I am talking about, I have also overheard Doctors and other healthcare professionals discussing patients in a way other than in the manner they should have been – and most of these time I don’t think for one moment that they realised that they had broken patient confidentiality.

How can you ensure that your staff are not discussing patient details at work, at home and perhaps sharing information on social networking sites?

You cant!

But what you can do is ensure that you staff are fully trained on patient confidentiality, ensure they understand what actually is patient confidentiality and that they understand the implications of what happens if they do this and update training on a regular basis.

Ensure that staff are fully aware of  What is Patient Identifiable Information?

Does your staff sign a confidentiality statement when then start working for you? Do you include cleaners and porters in this? Are your cleaners and porters contracted by an outside agency? If so ensure that the agency are getting these forms signed before they start working for you.

Do you have a confidentiality clause in your visitor’s book?  Local trades people might often have access to your surgery to carry out work – they too could be privileged to patient information (notes on desk, computer screen left on, patients in the room) they should also be signing a confidentiality statement – and the best way for this is when then sign the visitors book at reception – have a confidentiality clause in the book for them to read before signing the book.

A lot of the time people do not realise they are breaching patient confidentiality – but if someone can identify a patient through a name, date of birth, address or whatever then the confidentiality is broken – and the patient would have ever right to complain.

Are you confident that ALL your staff are fully aware of the meaning “patient confidentiality.”

***Here is the link to the article that I speak about above


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