Sharing information with Victims’ Families – New guidance for Mental Health Trusts from NHS England.

Sharing information with victims’ families after patient homicides is often a thorny issue for NHS mental health trusts, who struggle with concerns over data protection and the offender’s patient confidentiality.

Now new legal advice to NHS England makes it clear that serious incident reports should always be released to victims’ families.

The main reasons for this are:

  • Mental Health Trusts are under a specific contractual duty in the NHS standard contract to provide a copy of internal investigation reports to the person who has suffered harm, or their representatives.
  • Aside from the NHS standard contract, disclosure of reports is likely to be lawful and justified.
  • If there were to be a legal claim for compensation, the Trust would be compelled to disclose full un-redacted internal reports to a Claimant.
  • They would also get full access at an inquest. (If there was a serious concern about identities being revealed etc. a judge/coroner could be asked to consider the matter). It is almost certain that if an inquest is held an un-redacted report will be disclosed.

The advice also advises that Trusts should draft reports in the knowledge that disclosure is highly likely to be requested. Whilst this disclosure initially will be of a redacted version, the full version may ultimately have to be disclosed. Hence care in drafting these reports at the outset is essential.

We also understand Trusts would have to demonstrate a clear detriment to the offender if they wanted to refuse sharing information with victims.

The legal advice was issued to the NHS August 2015, applies nationally and constitutes clear guidance for Trusts’ and others on the sharing of information with relatives.

Trusts should contact their NHS Regional Homicide Investigation leads for more information or get in touch with us and we’ll point you in the right direction.

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