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A report of investigations into unsafe discharge from hospital. 2016. (accessed 20 February 2019)

A matter of confidentiality

28 February 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 4

How often have you heard these words? ‘Sorry nurse, but can you tell me about my father? What's the plan? What's the diagnosis? No one is telling us anything.’ What do you do? Is telling a family member breaching patient confidentiality or is it a key element of patient care? Should you simply say: ‘I will call the doctor…’ knowing full well that the on-call team don't know the patient and are highly unlikely to be able to come and see the patient's relative, thereby resulting in more family frustration? It is a real conundrum and happens on a daily basis.

When pondering this question, it is worth remembering that navigating patient care is increasingly complicated, particularly with an ageing population. Caring for a frail elderly relative places pressure on family members, many of whom will be elderly themselves. Therefore, effective communication is essential for safe discharge planning, especially as communication failures are commonly at the centre of failed discharges, often with tragic consequences (Mellor, 2016).

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