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Part of providing good care and support involves building trust and confidence and having the best interests of individuals in mind. Take great care not to discuss personal information where others might overhear or by using too loud a voice. Personal information includes things like their health conditions, sexual orientation, personal history or social circumstances. Individuals may tell you other private information that they trust you to keep to yourself. Unless it is necessary to pass this on for health and social care reasons it will help to build trust if you keep this confidential.

Confidentiality is a very important right of individuals who receive care and support. Information should always be shared on a need-to-know basis only, for example with other workers involved in their care. You should not share information with anybody else, even the person’s family or friends, without their permission. For example, an individual may not want a friend to know about their health or if they have been unhappy.

There might be occasions when an individual does not want to share information that you feel is important for other workers to know so that they are provided with the care and support they need. It is important that you explain this to the individual concerned; giving your reasons. Try to find agreement over the level of information they are willing for you to pass on. If you still feel that this is not in their best interests talk to your manager about the dilemma you are facing.

They will help you judge whether you should tell the individual that you must pass something on in the best interests of their care and support.

Individuals should always feel safe and comfortable. Talk with them or look at their care plan to find out how they want to be treated in different situations. In particular, it is important to find out how the individual would like their carer, family members or friends to be involved or kept up to date about their care and support. They may want to be totally responsible themselves for passing on information or about how far they want to involve them in their personal care or life. You should respect and support them in their choice which will sometimes involve having to sensitively challenge the assumptions that others have made.

Each individual has a different view of what they see as their personal space so it is important to find out from them what is comfortable for them. Some examples of ways that you should protect their privacy:

Always ask individuals before touching them in any way;

  • Knock on the door or speak before you enter the particular space or room they are in
  • If your role involves supporting individuals to wash or dress make sure you protect their dignity and privacy by making sure curtains, screens or doors are properly closed
  • Clothing or hospital gowns should always be arranged in a dignified way
  • If someone needs support to go to the toilet they should not have to wait or be left too long for you to return.

In each workplace, issues about privacy and dignity will vary so make sure you understand what they are by talking with other workers or your manager.