Impact of patient confidentiality on carers of people who have a mental disorder


  • Dianne Wynaden,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Nursing and Midwifery,
    2. Mental Health Services, Fremantle Hospital, Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia
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    • Dianne Wynaden, RN, RMHN, MScience (HSc), PhD.

  • Angelica Orb

    1. School of Nursing and Midwifery,
    2. Center for Research into Aged Care Services, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, and
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    • Angelica Orb, RN, PhD, MACE, ALPHA CHI.

Dianne Wynaden, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Curtin University of Technology, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia. Email:


ABSTRACT:  This paper discusses how patient confidentiality issues impact on carers of people with mental disorders. Data obtained from interviews with 27 primary carers were analysed using the grounded theory method. Despite the emphasis that Australian mental health policy documents place on collaboration with carers, the findings of this Western Australian study showed that carers were expected to undertake the caring role with little support, education or understanding. The lack of collaboration with health professionals increased carers’ level of distress and left them feeling frustrated and resentful. Carers have identified that patient confidentiality was one reason why health professionals were unwilling to collaborate with them. To ensure carers’ continued commitment to caring, negotiation about patient confidentiality issues must occur at the onset of the caregiving process. Carers have the right to certain information in order to maintain their level of well-being and their personal safety. Moreover, in certain circumstances, patient confidentiality may need to be breached if the life of the ill family member or others is in danger. A greater carer involvement in and understanding of the ill family member's illness will facilitate better treatment outcomes in the community for the ill family member.