The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) is committed to providing a confidential service to all those who contact the BTA for information, support or advice.

1. What we mean by confidentiality

Confidentiality is between the service user and the organisation not between the service user and an individual member of BTA Personnel [1]. This means that:

a. Information will be treated in confidence and will not be divulged to anyone outside the organisation except where there is a safeguarding concern, information that a crime has been committed, or there is an indication of a possible terrorist threat. Details are outlined in section 2 below.

b. However, in order that we can provide the best possible help to our service users it may be necessary to share information between BTA Personnel. Information will be shared between BTA Personnel strictly on a ‘need to know’ basis.

c. No conversation about a service user will take place with anyone who is not BTA Personnel, unless there is a safeguarding concern. The circumstances in which this may take place are governed by our Safeguarding Policy.

d. No personal information about a service user will be given to anyone who is not BTA Personnel without the consent of the service user, unless there is a safeguarding concern. The circumstances in which this may take place are governed by our Safeguarding Policy.

e. Our telephone service utilises Caller Display and these records are stored in accordance with our Data Protection, Safeguarding and Data Retention Policies. We do not examine call history to return missed calls, unless the service user has left a message on our answering service.

f. No calls to the helpline are monitored or recorded, unless a message is left on our answering service.

g. Our web chat service will display a Service User’s IP address. These records are automatically collected by the web chat service to indicate whether the service user has contacted us before. These records are stored in accordance with our Data Protection, Safeguarding and Data Retention Policies.

h. Web chat transcripts are automatically collected by the web chat service. These records are stored in accordance with our Data Protection, Safeguarding and Data Retention Policies.

i. Web chat transcripts may be reviewed for evaluation, monitoring and training purposes. Past transcripts may be used by new BTA Personnel for training purposes.

j. Children (service users under the age of 18) do not require parental permission to use our services but BTA Personnel will always encourage them to discuss the issue with their parents.

2. Exceptions:

a. In certain circumstances the BTA reserves the right to break confidentiality should this be deemed necessary. These circumstances may include:

· If the service user discloses information that may indicate risk to Children.

· If a member of BTA Personnel believes that a service user could cause danger to themselves or to others.

· If the service user gives information which indicates that a crime has been committed.

· If the service user gives information which indicates a possible terrorist threat.

b. Our Safeguarding Policy outlines the actions we will take if a service user has indicated risk to Children, or if a service user could cause danger to themselves or others.

c. In any other case, if a decision is taken to break confidentiality, it will be done only after consultation with the Chief Executive or a senior member of staff if the Chief Executive is unavailable.

d. If confidentiality is broken, the service user will be informed of this at the earliest opportunity, by whichever communication channel is disclosed.

e. BTA Personnel will keep careful notes when any decision is made to disclose confidential information and all action taken will be recorded, along with the reasoning behind the decision.

3. Breaches of confidentiality

a. BTA Personnel who become aware that a disclosure of personal information or other breach of confidentiality not permitted by this policy or the Safeguarding Policy has occurred must report it without delay to the Chief Executive or, in their absence, a senior member of staff.

b. Breaches must be reported regardless of whether the breach was deliberate or inadvertent, and regardless of who may have been responsible.

4. Use of service user information for publicity purposes

The BTA does publicise the numbers of service users we engage with. This data is aggregated and anonymised and no personally identifiable data is shared.

Stories from service users are used to raise awareness of tinnitus and the BTA. If BTA Personnel feel that a service user’s story could be useful material for publicity purposes, permission will be sought to pass their details onto the Communications Team. The Communications Team will then make contact, and if the service user agrees to become a story teller, the Story Teller Protocol will be followed, and the relevant Consent Form completed by the service user/storyteller.

If a letter or online message is received which gives thanks or encouragement then it may be kept and used for awareness raising if permission is given by the writer.

5. Use of service user information for training purposes

Examples of service users and their needs and engagements with the BTA may be used for training purposes. In this case, composite or fabricated case histories will be used and will be identified as such.

6. Record keeping, data analysis, statistics, and dissemination

a. Record keeping

Any record that includes personally identifiable information will be stored and retained in accordance with our Data Protection, Safeguarding and Data Retention Policies.

b. Data analysis and statistics

· Data will be collected to assist in planning, marketing and supervision.

· Data collected will have the sole purpose of enabling the BTA to evaluate and monitor the service and will not, under any circumstances, contain personal information.

· In some instances, the BTA may wish to make information available to public bodies and the media about the kind of enquiries we are taking and the situations with which they deal. In these cases, a story teller (managed by the Communications Team, following the Story Teller protocol), composite or fabricated case histories will be used and will be identified appropriately.

c. Making the Confidentiality Policy known

· All BTA Personnel will be given a copy of the policy when they join the BTA.

· We will ensure that all BTA Personnel are trained and able to give information about the Confidentiality Policy if asked.

· The Confidentiality Policy is available in full via the BTA’s web site, www.tinnitus.org.uk

7. Scope of the Confidentiality Policy

a. This Policy applies to all paid employees, Trustees, volunteers and interns.

b. All new staff and volunteers will be given training in its application. Paid staff will be reminded of their contractual duty of confidentiality; volunteers will be asked to sign a confidentiality pledge, drawing attention to their common law duty of confidentiality, before they are given access to any confidential information.

c. We will take steps to ensure that existing staff understand its application.

d. The policy will be reviewed annually.

[1] The term BTA Personnel is used to refer to members of BTA staff, volunteers, Trustees and interns