Privacy and Confidentiality

30 April 2021

In the mental health system, the rights of consumers and families/carers must be paramount.  Any information sharing must include the knowledge and consent of the person experiencing mental ill health and their families/ carers.

NMHCCF concerns about privacy and confidentiality

Despite much work accomplished in addressing privacy and confidentiality issues, the NMHCCF has found that concerns remain, particularly in this era of growing internet use for health records and e-health initiatives.

Supportive, reliable, and trusting relationships are fundamental to the recovery journey. Disclosure of treatment and support records which could potentially cause shame, helplessness and stigmatism against the wishes of consumers should be avoided. Although successful therapy and support may become impossible in such circumstances, clinicians should endeavour to secure the consent of the consumer to proceed with disclosure.

While the consumer has a right to have others involved in their care, it is important they also have the right to refuse it when the service provider nominates others to be involved, providing refusal does not impose a risk to anyone.

The need for confidentiality does not bar families/ carers from discussions about treatment, care and recovery plans, unless the consumer has refused or withdrawn consent, in which case general discussions may take place.

Where consent is given families/ carers may be invited to be involved in the care and treatment process.  It is important to be mindful of the privacy and confidentiality of information received.

NMHCCF recommends

In developing and implementing practical guidelines on privacy, confidentiality and information sharing, consultation with consumers and families/ carers should be prioritised. It is also critical that policy documents on confidentiality and information sharing for consumers, families/ carers and professionals are widely available and easy to access.

Cultural groups also may need additional consideration of privacy and confidentiality from a cultural perspective, ie Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people; people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, people from LGBTQI communities and other population groups.

Download the full advoacy brief

Advocacy Brief - Privacy and Confidentiality