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Readers panel: Are health professionals too reluctant to share patient data that could help prevent suicide?  

The chief executive of Papyrus, a charity dedicated to preventing suicide by young people, has written to the head of every NHS trust in England urging them to back employees who share information about a patient to keep them safe from suicide. Nursing Standard readers have their say

The chief executive of Papyrus, a charity dedicated to preventing suicide by young people, has written to the head of every NHS trust in England urging them to back employees who share information about a patient to keep them safe from suicide. Nursing Standard readers have their say


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Rachel Kent is a mental health nurse in London 

In my experience the opposite is true. As clinicians, we are eager to share any concerns about our patients with family members, as they provide an important safety net. Provided the patient agrees, and we have documented this, we are confident about sharing information. Problems can arise when the patient does not want us to share information and we have concerns about their safety – it is harder to find a balance between maintaining confidentiality and keeping safe someone who is a risk to themselves.

 

Stephanie Cumming is a practice nurse and trainee advanced nurse practitioner in Warwickshire 

Nurses have a duty of care to their patients that includes respecting confidentiality. It takes a lot of courage for young people to report suicidal thoughts, and if a nurse then passes this information on to the patient’s parents without their permission, they could lose confidence in the nurse and it could damage the nurse-patient relationship. Professional judgement is key in such situations, but we also need more guidance on the legal and ethical aspects of sharing this information, particularly without the patient's consent.

 

Ewout van Sabben is a third-year children’s nursing student in London
@Ewout1985 

More needs to be done to prevent suicide by young people, including sharing information about those at risk. We need more education in schools and colleges so that those looking after young people have a better understanding of young suicide and are aware of the risk factors. If a young person shows signs of suicide risk, perhaps a red flag system could be put in place to alert the professionals involved in their care. This would provide a better support network with open communication throughout.

 

Liz Charalambous is a staff nurse and PhD student in Nottingham 
@lizcharalambou

Patients who refuse permission to disclose suicidal behaviours present a worrying dilemma for nurses. We are bound by the Code to 'balance the need to act in the best interests of people at all times with the requirement to respect a person's right to accept or refuse treatment' and have a duty to respect privacy and confidentiality. There is an urgent need for further clarification and guidelines on clinical decision support systems to assist health professionals with the management of suicidal presentations.


Readers’ panel members give their views in a personal capacity only 
 

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