The Occupational Health Advisers and Physician are bound by a strict code of conduct including confidentiality, accountability and consent.
All nursing and medical personnel working in those capacities within the Occupational Health Unit will be currently registered with either the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) in the case of Occupational Health Advisors or the GMC (General Medical Council) in the case of physicians. Both OHA’s and Physicians should hold further qualification, recordable with their relevant registering body, in Occupational Health.
Copies of current registration documents will be held by the Occupational Health Manager although the responsibility of providing this evidence on an annual basis rests with the individual OHA and Physician.
It is the duty of all medical and nursing staff to report any situation or condition which may pose a risk to their patients, to their registering body.
The OHU professional must follow various standards and guidance for practice, examples of these include;
The Occupational Health Unit is staffed by registered health practitioners and provides a confidential service. This means that personal information is treated in medical confidence, and not passed on unless the employee gives consent. The exception to this is if information is passed on which is considered to pose a significant risk to health and safety of the individual or others. See below for more information on consent.
As a professional, you are personally accountable for actions and omissions in your practice and must always be able to justify your decisions and you must always act lawfully, whether those laws relate to your professional practice or personal life. Implicit in all of the above is that; “people in our care must be able to trust you with their health and wellbeing”.
Furthermore there is the need to “deliver care based on the best available evidence or best practice." “Provide a high standard of practice and care at all times”, “make the care of people your first concern, treating them as individuals and respecting their dignity”, and “work with others to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of those in your care, their families and carers, and the wider community”.
Nurses being hindered in working within the code have a duty to act, “You must inform someone in authority if you experience problems that prevent you working within this Code or other nationally agreed standards”
Occupational health guidance requires patient consent to disclose reports to employers.
The Occupational Health Unit has a significant but difficult role when dealing with consent to disclose information to an individual’s employer. Occupational Health practitioners are individuals who are medically qualified and are governed by the rules of their profession which requires medical confidentiality. They therefore have an ethical dilemma in that they regard the relationship between themselves and employees as a doctor patient relationship with all the necessary requirements of confidentiality. They cannot give management complete information on an employee’s medical condition and are governed by the rules of medical ethics. Guidance from the Faculty of Occupational Medicine and from the Nursing Midwifery Council recognises this fact.
On the other hand, they may be employed as members of management with an obligation to provide information to management to enable them to make a management decision, thus the dilemma.
Since 04 November 2009, employers seeking medical reports on employees from Occupation Health according to guidance from the General Medical Council (GMC) good practice guidance for doctors on confidentiality, says that, as a general rule, a doctor should seek a patient's express consent before disclosing medical information for purposes other than the provision of their care, such as for insurance or benefits claims.
The Act applies to information about individuals ("personal data"). It gives an individual ("the data subject") the right to access personal information that the University holds about them. They do this by making a subject access request. Please see the Records Management website if you wish to make a Subject Access request for your personal data.
This article was published on Apr 1, 2013