• 25 November 2019
  • 4 min read

How we should manage privacy protection in our care homes

  • Liam Palmer
    Registered Home Manager

Sometimes the desire to do be friendly with our care home community and their relatives could breach privacy rules. Here's what to be aware of.

Try Liam's guiding principles to ensuring privacy in your care home

How important is confidentiality for care home staff?

You would think absolute confidentiality is a given. Yet in the rush of running a care home, there can be minor breaches in the spirit if not practice of this principle of sound care home management.

The guidelines with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) go some way to cover the need for patient / resident confidentiality but like most law driven compliance they often lead to the creation of a series of rules which may not always meet the intention behind the legislation.

What is the basic principle behind GDPR?

“The act makes our data protection laws fit for the digital age when an ever increasing amount of data is being processed. Empowers people to take control of their data. Supports UK businesses and organisation through this change. Ensures that the UK is prepared for the future after we have left the EU.”

This is robust around data but doesn’t cover verbal indiscretions – direct or indirect.

I guess what I’m referring to here is being mindful of sharing personal information about residents in the course of our day which is not strictly necessary.

Often, a care home can feel like a true community, people engaged and sharing everyday life – especially between relatives of residents.

A family member may be curious where a resident they see everyday has gone. Does the staff member say they are in hospital / what the cause is?

This is a dilemma – a balance between community spirit and openness versus perceived intrusion by sharing personal details.

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My guiding principles are

1) Consider what would happen in the outside world

2) What would this person want – are they private / do they talk to everyone?

3) Who does the information belong to?

4) Concerning the person who wants to know / is interested to know - do they have a right to know?

Let’s take two real life examples:

Whilst working at a retirement village – a gentleman passed away...

A volunteer resident on reception wanted to know everything and felt that she should be told.

Considering the above principles: the gent did not have a relationship with this lady – it’s a village of 300 people.

In this instance, if you had 40 people living on a street, would someone go around each home and tell each person? Would they want that? If an undertaker came, would people that didn’t know the family, walk into the grounds and ask for an update?

They wouldn’t dare, in most cases, it is considered to be private. That answered it for me.

Whilst working at a care home – a resident (gentleman) went into hospital...

A family member of another resident wanted to know where the resident was and what was wrong with them.

You could see this as community interest or “being nosy”.

Do we say he has gone to hospital / what he went in with?

With the guiding principles, this lady didn’t have a right to know; she wasn’t close to this gentleman. He was a private person.

The next of kin will be notified as per the protocols for every care home. They will be given clear details as to what is happening / feedback from the hospital.

If someone doesn’t have any next of kin, there may well be someone appointed with power of attorney (POA) for healthcare - they will be updated.

My sense of doing the right thing here was to let people know he’d gone to hospital but protect his privacy with no further details given.

'Protect the personhood and dignity of every person living in a care home'

Care home residents (especially those in later life) who regularly go in and out of hospital may feel embarrassed and not want to talk about their health conditions.

They may also be afraid of death.

Often, they will want to carry on as normal, get back into their routine of everyday life at the home.

For those staff close to them, they will appreciate the caring words or reassuring hug.

o close here, I think we must remember to protect the personhood and dignity of every person living in a care home.

It is hard to keep in mind that before they got here, they’ve lived and often done everything we wish to do.

Though we call them “residents”, they are simply people like us but older, often struggling to adjust to life on their own, living in a community setting and the resulting loss of independence.

Based in working across many care groups, I think care homes do a great deal of good, far more than the media gives the sector recognition for. Click here to learn more.

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About the author

  • Liam Palmer
    Registered Home Manager

Liam Palmer is the author of 2 books on raising quality standards in care homes through developing leadership skills. The 2nd is called "Leadership Secrets of Care Home Managers” inspired by several meetings with the Chief Inspector of the regulator, the CQC. Liam has been fortunate to work as a senior manager across many healthcare brands including a large private hospital, a large retirement village and medium to large care homes in the private sector and 3rd sector.

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  • Liam Palmer
    Registered Home Manager

About the author

  • Liam Palmer
    Registered Home Manager

Liam Palmer is the author of 2 books on raising quality standards in care homes through developing leadership skills. The 2nd is called "Leadership Secrets of Care Home Managers” inspired by several meetings with the Chief Inspector of the regulator, the CQC. Liam has been fortunate to work as a senior manager across many healthcare brands including a large private hospital, a large retirement village and medium to large care homes in the private sector and 3rd sector.