Information sharing questions and answers

Q1. Why do we need share information?

  • To safeguard and promote the welfare of children and vulnerable adults

  • To develop a holistic view of a child or adult’s situation over time

  • To provide effective service delivery

  • To improve the quality of service

  • To safeguard staff

Q2. Will I be supported by my organisation if I share information?

Yes. Devon County Council’s senior managers are committed to support staff when they share information in good faith and act in accordance with the Council’s policies and guidance.

Q3. Does the Data Protection Act stop us sharing information?

No. The Data Protection Act 1998 does not prevent information from being shared. It is in place to make sure that personal information is handled and shared properly. Complying with data protection principles can actually strengthen the information sharing process.

Q4. Do I need consent to share personal information within my organisation?

No, as long as the information is still going to be used for the purpose it was originally obtained for and the intended use is for a legitimate purpose which does not cause unjustified prejudice to the person it is about.

Q5. When should I raise information sharing with the service user?

At the earliest opportunity and preferably prior to sharing their information (unless discussing sharing with them beforehand would increase a person’s risk of harm or would prejudice a police investigation.

Q6. When should I get consent to share information?

Refer to the Golden rules of information sharing to help you make your decision.

Q7. How much information should I share?

Only the minimum information which is necessary for the intended purpose. The information shared must be adequate, relevant and not excessive for the purpose.

Q8. What should I do if I am suspicious about the situation of a child, young person or vulnerable adult but not sure whether I have grounds to share information?

Use the ‘Can I Share Information?’ flowchart to help you make your decision. If in doubt, seek advice from your information governance or legal representatives.

Q9. How should I share information?

  • Only share information which is necessary

  • Only share information with the person or people who need to know

  • Check that the information is accurate and up to date. Make sure you share information in a secure way

  • Establish with the recipient whether they intend to pass it on to other

  • people and ensure they understand the limits of any consent which has been given

  • Inform the person who the information is about or the person who provided the information of the sharing, if it is safe to do so.

Q10. If I am working with a child, young person or adult on an on-going basis, should I continue to share information with other agencies who work with that individual?

Where a number of agencies or workers are involved with a service user it is good practice to identify a lead practitioner who will act as the co-ordinating point for the sharing of this person’s information. This should be discussed with the service user and the guidance on obtaining consent should be followed.

Q11. What should I do if a service user wants to see the information which another agency has shared with me?

Everyone has a general right to see or receive a copy of the personal information which is held about them (subject to conditions and exemptions). The right of Subject Access is given to all of us under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998. The Council has a procedure for handling these types of requests, managed by the Information Governance Team. If you receive a request please forward it quickly to the Access to Information – Mailbox or post it to the Information Governance Team, Room 120, County Hall, Exeter EX2 4QD or telephone 01392 380100.

Q12. What do I do if I think a disclosure might affect the safety of staff or another service user?

If you have information which suggests that as a consequence of sharing information an employee or another service user’s safety might be at risk, you must bring this to the attention of the person who is going to make the disclosure. You or the person making the disclosure must seek advice and guidance from an appropriately senior manager.

Q13. Do I need to record the disclosures I make?

Yes. You should record:

  • what information was shared

  • why it was shared

  • who it was shared with.

If you shared the information without consent, you should record the reason for this and the lawful basis you used for sharing information without consent. If you shared the information with informed consent, try to obtain this consent in writing and then record it on the service user’s file. If you cannot obtain written consent, record on file that consent was provided verbally and include the date and approximate time the verbal consent was given. A general consent form template is available.

Q14. What is informed consent?

Informed consent is consent given by someone who fully understands what they are consenting to. They must also understand what the consequences may be if they give consent and if they refuse consent.

Q15. Who should give consent to share information?

Refer to the Consent and Capacity page

Q16. What do I do if consent is withheld or withdrawn?

Service users can refuse to give consent for their information to be shared, with anyone, with specific agencies or they can withhold consent for certain information to be disclosed. If this happens talk to them about their concerns, and if appropriate, explain the consequences of them not providing consent for their information to be shared.

If consent is withheld or withdrawn ask yourself whether you feel there is a need or a legal power to share their information without their consent. In deciding this, you should consider whether the harm that could be caused by not disclosing their information outweighs the harm that could be caused by disclosing it without their consent.

If you need assistance with making this judgment speak to your information governance or legal representative.

If you decide to override a refusal of consent, let the service user know and tell them why. You should also keep them involved in any other decisions affecting them.

Q17. How should I get consent to share information?

  • Ask the person to complete a consent form where possible. A template General Consent Form is available.

  • It is best practice to get consent in writing but consent can also be given verbally or it can be inferred from the circumstances in which it is given i.e. the person has an expectation that you will share certain information with certain organisations or people.

  • Explain what will happen to their information if they give you consent and what could happen if they don’t.

  • Be clear about who you wish to share their information with, and why.

  • Be clear about how sharing their information will mean a better service to them.

  • Allow the service user to identify particular information which he or she does not wish to be shared or particular agencies that he or she does not wish their information to be shared with.Explain that in some circumstances you do not need consent to share information e.g. if you have a legal obligation to share their information.

Q18. Can general consent to share information be obtained in advance?

Yes, but only when the implications of this are clearly explained to the person and where a high level of coordinated inter-agency services will be required over a long period, e.g. in the case of a severely disabled child.

Q19. Does general consent need to be renewed?

Yes. Consent should be checked with adults and competent children and young people at each review meeting, and the outcome recorded in the notes of that meeting. If a consent form has been used, consent will be valid for the duration of the purpose outlined on the form or the retention period specified.

Q20. Where should I record consent or refusal of consent?

Record consent or refusal of consent on the service user’s records. You should also record any decisions made about sharing their information and any disclosures made.

Q21. If I have legal grounds to share personal information do I still need to talk to the child, young person or adult about this?

Yes. It is good practice to keep people informed of what is happening to their information even if this is difficult. Experience shows that this increases trust and openness in relationships and gives the service user a sense of control over what is happening to them. The individual should be told before their information is shared, unless this would place someone at risk, prejudice a Police investigation, or lead to unjustifiable delay. If one of these applies, let the person know the information has been shared as soon as it is safe and possible to do so.

Q22. What if I feel reluctant to ask for consent?

Ask yourself why you feel reluctant. Would seeking consent place someone at risk of harm or prejudice a Police investigation? If so, you probably have legal grounds for sharing the information without consent. Consider whether the harm that could be caused by not disclosing their information would far outweigh the harm that could be caused by disclosing it without their consent. If in doubt, discuss this with your line manager.