Title: Confidentiality of Offender Medical Information held by Queensland Health
Category: Safety and Security
Implement Date: 24 December 2008
Application: Custodial Operations and areas undertaking work in connection with persons in custody
Appendices and Forms
- Request for confidential offender medical information (in-confidence)
Procedure - Confidentiality of Offender Medical Information held by Queensland Health
To provide for the collaboration of Queensland Health (QH) and Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) to work to ensure both the effective and efficient delivery of health services to offenders in the custodial setting by QH, and the safe and secure management of offenders by QCS, through the provision of relevant information between both agencies.
This procedure applies to QCS staff. An identical QH policy applies to QH staff.
General information relates to the provision of broad health information regarding an offender. General information does not include specific diagnoses or detailed health information. Broad health information is able to be communicated to enable QCS staff to undertake their duties.
Offender - a person in custody in a corrective services facility (whether on remand or incarcerated under State or Federal law).
Other health professional - a person who is registered, enrolled, or authorised under a Health Practitioner Registration Act or the Nursing Act. (eg a doctor, physiotherapist, dentist, midwife, or registered nurse) or a person who provides a health service (eg a social worker or dietician).
Relevant information relates to the offender's confidential health information which is retained by QH, and includes information that may assist QCS (or its Engaged Service Providers) to manage an offender in custody. Relevant information may include, but is not limited to, specific diagnostic or detailed health information-
- impacting on an offender's behaviour;
- impacting on classification, placement, employment or accommodation decisions concerning the offender;
- about an offender's serious or life threatening health issue;
- necessary to respond to or defend a complaint (or legal proceeding) made by or involving an offender; or
- required by Legal Services Branch for the prevention and management of litigation.
2. Authorising environment
Refer Corrective Services Act 2006 ss 339, 341 and Health Services Act 1991 Part 7 Confidentiality; QCS procedure - Disclosure of Confidential Information
3. General roles and responsibilities
The mission of QH is: “promoting a healthier Queensland”. The provision of health services to offenders is through the Division of the Chief Health Officer. The Offender Health Services Branch provides a range of health services delivered by qualified health professionals to offenders within corrective services facilities.
The vision of QCS is to be: “leaders in corrections: partners in criminal and social justice”. The purpose of QCS is: “In partnership with other key criminal justice agencies, we are committed to the critical role of community safety and crime prevention through the humane containment, supervision and rehabilitation of offenders” (refer QCS Strategic Plan).
4. Guiding principles
Both departments acknowledge and agree that in situations involving offenders and where there is a risk to the safety of the offender, other offenders, staff members of QH, QCS or QCS' engaged service providers, or members of the community-
- QCS have the responsibility to protect the safety of all parties;
- QH personnel should maintain the health needs of the offender and the preservation of the offender's rights and dignity as a significant consideration within the overall objective of ensuring the safety of all parties; and
- the management of any such situation should be achieved with primacy given to the safety of all persons concerned and, where not able to be avoided, the imposition of minimum restriction, in relation to health needs, upon the individual offender.
5. Cooperative arrangements
In a spirit of cooperation between QH and QCS, the departments agree as follows-
- to continue to share general information in relation to an offender's health issues;
- to identify current and emerging issues in relation to sharing relevant information and to develop strategies to improve service delivery through collaboration between the two departments;
- to continue to define and develop mechanisms which promote a culture of continuous improvement across the two departments to facilitate the further development and communication of identified good practice, which will ensure that formal arrangements are sustainable over time;
- to explore legislative and policy options to enhance information sharing; and
- to continue to improve knowledge, skills, attitudes and values of the respective staff of both departments in relation to relevant information sharing.
6. General information
General information relating to an offender's health status can be communicated in broad terms by QH staff to QCS staff.
General information does not include specific diagnoses or detailed health information. This information is regarded as relevant information (refer below).
Situations where QCS staff may receive general information from QH staff include, but are not limited to-
- sufficient information to manage offenders on medication;
- assessment of an offender's stability within the custodial environment;
- assessing placement of the offender;
- assessing an offender's suitability for transfer to open custody;
- assessing an offender's suitability for community service leave of absence;
- transferring an offender back to secure custody;
- processes being undertaken at public hospitals;
- assessing appropriate restraint modifications;
- emergency visit situations for offenders admitted to public hospitals;
- assisting in determining whether the offender is well enough to participate in employment and other programs;
- addressing any safety concerns for participants and programs officers;
- managing an offender's psychiatric episode;
- ensuring accurate assessment and management of an offender's risk of suicide or self harm;
- ensuring accurate assessment and management of an offender's risk of harm to others;
- identifying medication following positive urine tests and/or location of contraband; and
- escorting requirements (eg special diets and/or handling arrangements).
7. Relevant information
The following relevant information disclosure and confidentiality provisions apply-
- QCS role is-
- to request the disclosure of relevant information concerning the person in custody, using the QH form - Request for confidential offender medical information (in-confidence);
- to ensure the request form provides all relevant details of the purpose of the request while maintaining appropriate confidentiality; and
- to ensure that in situations where relevant information is disclosed to a third party, a record of this disclosure is kept and the conditions of disclosure explained.
- QH's role is-
- to determine that the information requested is relevant information and relates to the offender;
- to ensure that the relevant information is limited to only that which relates to the purpose of the request. Consideration needs to be given to how the information will be interpreted by non-clinical personnel;
- to ensure that a record of the relevant information that was disclosed be made in the offender's medical record and be communicated, if clinically advisable, to the offender;
- to ensure that the relevant information is provided within the timeframe required if possible; and
- to ensure that priority is given to requests if there is a court-mandated deadline.
QCS will contact QH to confirm the accuracy and relevance of relevant information and to seek updated relevant information, as necessary.
The departments agree to exchange information concerning the offender as soon as is reasonably practicable having regard to the urgency of the situation.
The departments agree to-
- ensure appropriate security measures are in place to protect any information provided by QH from unauthorised access, use or disclosure;
- restrict any person from accessing or using information, unless that person is legally authorised to do so;
- recognise and observe the confidentiality of information and agree that the collection, release and use of information will comply, so far as they apply to the relevant party, with all applicable Queensland Government policy and legislative requirements; and
- comply with any other reasonable confidentiality restrictions agreed between the departments in respect of the handling or disclosure of information.
8. Provision of relevant information to health professionals
There is no restriction on the release of relevant information to other health professionals, including QCS psychologists, who are participating in the care and treatment of the offender.
9. Corrective Services Act powers
Under the Corrective Services Act 2006, Inspectors, Official Visitors and staff delegated by the Chief Executive to undertake investigations in relation to their role and functions, have the power to inspect and copy any document kept at a corrective services facility that is relevant to the performance of their work, other than a document to which legal professional privilege is attached.
10. Dispute resolution
For any matter in relation to releasing confidential offender medical information that may be in dispute, the departments-
- will attempt to resolve the matter at the workplace level between the QH and QCS officers; and
- agree that, if the matter is not resolved at the workplace level, the matter will be referred to appropriate senior managers for resolution -
- Queensland Health
Director, Strategic Performance and Development
Offender Health Services Branch
- Queensland Corrective Services
General Manager, Custodial Operations