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Confidentiality of patient information

The Directorate of Laboratory Medicine conforms to the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust Confidentiality Code of Conduct and Information Disclosure Policy ON4-3437 Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.

Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) collects holds and processes personal data about many individuals, including information about its employees, patients, suppliers, clients and stakeholders.

The Trust is committed to handling all information efficiently, securely, effectively and in accordance with relevant legislation in order to deliver the best possible healthcare and services.

The Trust ensures that all staff are aware of their responsibility for patient confidentiality through annual mandatory training. There are several overarching policies on confidentiality and data protection. The Trust has an informatics department which oversees the handling of patients' records, supports the Information Technology (IT) systems and ensures the security and confidentiality of information.

The Trust information charter can be found on StaffNet (the Trust's intranet) and the Directorate of Laboratory Medicine notes that:

  • We only ask for information that we need to allow interpretation of results
  • We protect the information and ensure only those staff who need to see the information can access it
  • We share the information only when we need to for patient care. For example, sending the information to another laboratory for testing
  • We don't store information for any longer than is absolutely necessary

Sending information to other laboratories

While several hundred laboratory tests are performed within the MFT, for some rare or complex tests patient specimens may be sent to specialist laboratories elsewhere which have the necessary expertise. In some cases there will be only one specialist laboratory in the whole country which performs a particular test, meaning using referral laboratories is essential.

There is a detailed policy in place to govern how we choose these referral laboratories. Referral laboratories are selected for their expertise and their quality standards. We regularly check their accreditation status, which gives us assurance that they have procedures in place for the protection of information.

We also have specialist laboratories within the DLM and we receive specimens from around the country. Therefore our laboratories have procedures in place for the protection of information not just from the patients from our area but all patients from around the country.

When specimens are sent to a referral laboratory we need to send some 'patient identifiers' such as name and date of birth. In some tests it is essential to send further information, for example, symptoms or travel information, to allow the referral laboratory to interpret the results for our individual patient. In some tests ethnic origin and family details may need to be shared with the referral laboratory.

Consent to a specimen being taken and analysed is given by the patient presenting at the point of specimen collection. The responsibility for obtaining informed consent for the test(s) resides with the medical staff ordering the test. Informed consent should cover all the tests being undertaken, implications of the results of these tests and the disclosure of clinical and personal details to appropriate health care personnel.

Further information