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Guidance for psychologists with Covid-19, what information should they declare to contact tracers?

17 July 2020

As various test and trace programmes increase across the country, helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the sharing of information is vital to their success. But, this raises difficult questions for psychologists - if contacted by a contract tracer should psychologists provide details of clients and potentially breach confidentiality?

The British Psychological Society (BPS) has released advice for psychologists on how to navigate this difficult situation and ensure they maintain their duty of care not only to their clients but also themselves.

Dr Roman Raczka, chair-elect of the BPS Division of Clinical Psychology said:

“Psychologists could find themselves in a difficult position when faced with the decision of whether to share confidential information with contact tracers or to protect client confidentiality and withhold information.

Ultimately if a psychologist believes they have been in close contact with a client, they should use their professional judgement as to what to do for the benefit of the client and wider public health.”

Giving information to contact tracers is voluntary and psychologists cannot be compelled to provide information.

It is advised that psychologists follow their way of getting client consent before sharing information and one solution is to discuss this potential scenario with clients in initial conversations and explain how their information could be used by the track and trace system.

In situations where psychologists are unable to contact clients a decision will need to be made about safeguarding the client and their close contacts and community from the virus.

In exceptional circumstances where the psychologist considers the risk of harm from the tracer contacting the client outweighs the risk of waiting to contact them personally, a record should be made of the decision and the reasons behind it.

It’s important to note that test, track and trace programmes vary across the devolved governments and the rules and guidance about them are subject to change.

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