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

Confidentiality is between the individual and the organisation not between the individual and the member of staff. This means that:

  1. Information will be treated in the utmost confidence and will not be divulged to anyone outside the organisation except where extenuating circumstances exist (see below). However, in order that we can provide the best possible help to our clients it may be necessary to share information with a colleague.
  2. No conversation about a client will take place with anyone who does not work for the BTA either as a volunteer or as a paid employee.
  3. No personal information about a client will be given to any third party even if the person is a member of their family.
  4. Call Return or Caller Display facilities are not used by the BTA.
  5. No calls to the helpline are monitored or recorded, unless a message is left on the answerphone.
  6. Helpline advisers will use the secrecy button on the phone if it is necessary for them to seek help from a colleague whilst in the middle of their conversation.
  7. Information will only be passed to another agency with the consent of the client.
  8. Clients who are under 18 do not require parental permission to use the service but advisers will always encourage them to discuss the issue with their parents (NB see exceptions below).

Exceptions: 

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

  • If the client is under 18 and discloses information that may indicate risk to children.
  • If an adviser believes that a client could cause danger to themselves or to others.
  • If the client gives information which indicates that a crime has been committed.
  • If the client gives information which indicates a possible terrorist threat.

We acknowledge that clients remain responsible for their own lives even if that means they decide to take their own life. We will therefore encourage the client to get help and support from the appropriate authority and will encourage them, if necessary, to call an ambulance. However responsibility to do so resides with the client. 

In all of these cases, if a decision has to be taken to break confidentiality, it will be done only after consultation with the Chief Executive or a second member of staff if the Chief Executive is unavailable. If confidentiality is broken, the client will be informed of this at the earliest opportunity, by whichever communication channel is disclosed.

Advisers will keep careful notes of any incidents and all action taken will be recorded.

We appreciate that this type of enquiry can be stressful for staff; we will therefore ensure that all staff receive appropriate training and supervision.

Use of client information for publicity purposes:

The BTA does publicise the numbers of enquiries which are received.

If an enquiry is received, the outcome of which would provide useful material for publicity purposes, then wherever possible the permission of the client will be sought in writing before the story is told to anyone else.

Use of client information for training purposes:

Examples of enquiries may be used for training purposes but any details which enable identification to be made will be changed.

Record keeping, statistics, evaluation and monitoring:

  1. Personal information via the helpline
  • Names, addresses and telephone numbers will not be taken from helpline callers, unless an information pack or other service is requested, and it therefore becomes necessary to do so.
  • Any record sheets will be destroyed immediately after use.
  • If an information pack, other information or a product is requested, then this information will be entered into our database, and stored for two years.
  • If a caller joins the BTA, the reader’s panel or makes a donation, information will be stored for the period the individual is a member, and for six years thereafter for audit purposes.
  1. Letters, e-mails or online messages
  • Any letters or printed e-mail or online messages will be kept securely.
  • Any correspondence will be destroyed after two years. However, if a letter or online message is received which gives thanks or encouragement then it may be kept provided that permission is sought from the writer. Information about a client will never be used for publicity purposes unless consent has been obtained.
  • If a correspondent joins the BTA, the Reader’s Panel or makes a donation, information will be stored for the period the individual is a member, and for six years thereafter for audit purposes.
  1. Data analysis
  • 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 composite or fabricated case histories will be used and will be identified as such.
  1. Making the Confidentiality Policy known
  • All staff will be given a copy of the policy when they join the BTA.
  • We will ensure that all staff 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
  • This Policy applies to all paid employees and volunteers. All new staff will be given training in its application. We will take steps to ensure that existing staff understand its application. The policy will be reviewed annually.