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To share or not to share

Note: The following blog post has been contributed by Ruth Hannan, Policy and Development Manager at Carers Trust

To share or not to share (with apologies to William Shakespeare): that is the question; or at least that has been the filling in formsquestion that Carers Trust has been asked to answer by Dame Fiona Caldicott as part of the Caldicott Committee review on information sharing.

If you ask any six year old across the land their responses will more than likely to be “yes, sharing is good”. We’re brought up being told by our parents to share; share our toys, share our sweets or share our seat; although most six year olds through gritted teeth would agree to share their sweets in principle we grow up understanding that it is the kind and right thing to do.

Charlotte Bronte said “Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste”; Bronte captures the value concept that we adhere to perfectly. Sharing is good for us and those around us; however when we begin to discuss information sharing the clarity becomes more blurred.

In 1997 the Chief Medical Officer for England commissioned a report on how patient information should be shared; this was due to concerns being expressed about the sharing of patient information and the rise of information technology which allowed for the easier dissemination of this information.  Dame Fiona Caldicott chaired the committee whose findings were published in the Caldicott Report  at the end of 1997. The report highlighted a number of key principles and made of a number of recommendations.

In February it was announced that there was to be a review of information sharing; specifically looking at striking a balance between patient confidentiality and information sharing.

Confidentiality and information sharing are thorny issues for many carers, especially mental health carers; this is one of the main reasons why Carers Trust took the lead on the Triangle of Care project to promote the benefits of carer inclusion in the sharing of information.

I (on behalf of Carers Trust) was therefore naturally delighted to submit written and oral evidence to the Caldicott Review Committee this week.  We focussed on the need for clarity and simplification of the guidance on confidentiality and information sharing, ensuring that patients and service users are asked about information sharing so that their wishes are clear, clarity on the rights and needs of carers to be given non-confidential information and supported in their own right irrespective of the service user’s wishes and most crucially that staff are trained to be confident in the use of information sharing and confidentiality guidance.

The oral session was very positive and included a variety of carers, carers’ organisations; specialised service user groups i.e. Combat Stress and those affected by domestic abuse and members of the committee. There was a general sense that information sharing is a positive thing and aids recovery so long as this is done with a patient’s permission or if they are not able in their best interests.

We hope that the findings of the committee will lead to more informed and confident information sharing which will work in the best interests of both service users and carers.

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August 7, 2012 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , ,

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