According to the NMC code of conduct (2009) every patient has the basic human right to confidentiality whilst being cared for by nursing professionals. Confidentiality is when one person gives information to another in situations where it is anticipated that the information will not be passed on (NMC 2009). This principle extends to include any details, written or spoken disclosed by a patient regarding their life and family and must not be used for any purpose other than what it was meant for or divulged to anyone outside the profession unless the patient consents as outlined in the Data Protection Act (1998). However, if the nurse deems any information to be significant to the patient’s wellbeing or treatment it can be passed on provided the patient is informed (Rumbold 2000).
Adherence to this directive protects the patient and allows an open, honest and communicative nurse – patient relationship to develop which in turn enables the nurse to provide the best care based on the information the patient has provided As the nurse-patient rapport grows the nature of the information volunteered may change. On occasion the nurse may feel that the sharing of certain information may be crucial in preventing harm to others e.g. information detailing abuse or criminal activity (NMC 2009).
In this instance the patients’ right to confidentiality may be overridden providing justification can be established, although inevitably it will be detrimental to the nurse patient bond of trust which has developed. However it is the Nurse’s moral and legal duty to ensure the information is passed on to the appropriate organisation, e.g.