Identifying confidential personal information and preserving anonymity

If you handle personal data incorrectly, you could face legal action and a large fine so it's vital that you understand the rules about handling information that could potentially identify someone.
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What is Confidential Personal Information?

A lot of the information local Healthwatch receives is classed as confidential personal information (CPI).

This is information that reveals something private and personal about someone, and applies to both members of the public and health and social care professionals.

To preserve anonymity, it is important to consider whether the information could reveal who that person is by itself, or when combined with other information that you hold.

Why is this important?

If you handle personal data incorrectly, you could face legal action and a large fine, so it's vital that you understand the rules about handling information that could potentially identify someone.

Please note: CPI does not apply to the deceased, however, requests for information about the deceased should be made by those appropriately authorised, for example, a solicitor or executor.

Identifying CPI

  • Individual’s details: the name of the person (first and last) and in some cases their initials or the names of friends and family members connected to the individual.
  • Contact details: email addresses and phone numbers postcode or address.
  • Unique registration numbers: NHS number or other unique registration number.
  • Specific details: for example, someone may be identifiable by the location, date and time they had an operation.
  • Circumstantial information: for example, the only wheelchair user registered at a GP practice will be identifiable by those details.
  • Contextual information: such as the person might be the only person in the care home who likes a specific musician or actor - this can be hard to identify, but be vigilant and only record details when necessary.

Find out more

Take a look at our fuller guidance on Data Protection.

Read more

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