You need to be aware of when these could apply in your dental practice. The Data Protection Act protects the confidentiality of sensitive personal data. For patients, this includes information on their physical or mental health. Dentists must not disclose information to a third party, apart from in the specific circumstances outlined in the Act.
Generally, patients should understand that their data will be discussed with other dental professionals and administrative staff within the practice but this should only be as far as is necessary and only in accordance with the provision of care to that patient. By seeking treatment, patients are in effect agreeing to these necessary disclosures, but make this clear to them when you collect their details and in your practice's data protection policy.
In a limited number of clinical circumstances, disclosure of information may be made to the appropriate authorities without the need for a patient's consent. Key circumstances include: if you suspect abuse of a child or vulnerable adult; if there are risks to the health and safety of others; where a patient's health and safety are at risk; or for certain infectious diseases.
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A number of other more routine circumstances can also arise: research, legal proceedings, police enquiries, statutory obligations, missing or deceased persons, and tax enquiries. Dentists should consider carefully any request to disclose personal data about patients for the purpose of health research. Where information is unmistakably anonymised by the dentist or, more likely, collected by an accredited research organisation in a way to ensure individual patients cannot be identified, then there is no requirement to obtain additional patient consent.
But when patient data is provided to researchers in a form where personal information is included then specific patient consent must always be obtained. The distinction between identifiable and non-identifiable data type is critical and there is now a presumption that information will generally be provided to reputable research organisations where individual patients cannot be identified. The data should not be traceable to an individual.
Personal details should obviously be removed but data should be released only in groups large enough so patients cannot be identified on the basis of factors such as, for example, locality, age range and rare condition. In all cases, the researchers involved will still need to obtain specific ethical approval to examine the data and this consent will only cover a specific research project.
There may be some instances where data that contain identifiable information to allow linkage to other healthcare records is collected.
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Access to linked patient records would only ever be provided by them to researchers in a completely anonymised form. Personal information may have to be disclosed during legal proceedings. The overriding interests of justice generally require that all relevant information is made available to all parties and potentially the court so that a fair and transparent outcome can be reached. Dentists may be on the receiving end of claims from patients, suppliers or employment tribunal proceedings by staff and some of your records could be important to the case.
If a patient has been unhappy with the treatment provided and is seeking to bring a claim against a dentist then the patient's solicitor may ask for copies of records and treatment plans. You should ask for a signed consent form by the patient to say such information can be released to the patient's representative, although their solicitor would normally provide their client's written consent.
On the other hand, you may need to rely on patient records to prove your defence to their claim. They may say that the records are inadmissible and here the judge would have to balance their rights to confidentiality against the interests of justice in having all information available for assessing the case.nen-nen-nenga.com/wp-content/hytu-sagittarius-weekly.php
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Similarly, staff records could be used in employment tribunal claims. Where a dentist pursues a patient for non-payment of an account through the courts the records of the treatment done would be relevant. The police can be insistent when asking for information. They will understandably be concerned to progress an investigation. You must, however, maintain a degree of perspective and weigh up your obligations to your patients.
You must consider the seriousness of the crime and potential danger to the public if the information is not disclosed. Is it likely that the suspect will cause serious injury to another person? While having a duty of confidentiality to the patient, dental professionals also have a duty to society and this may, in certain circumstances, outweigh the duty to the patient. Generally, if the crime is less serious or the matter is non-urgent, dental professionals should ask the police to produce a court order.
This is not being obstructive. Explain the obligations you are under. The police officer should know the procedure for getting one. It could be in the interests of the police enquiry to obtain information in the proper way because a future defendant could ask the court to rule evidence obtained incorrectly as inadmissible. Official disclosure requests sent to companies requested by customers.
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