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Confidentiality within physiotherapy: perceptions and attitudes of clinical practitioners


Objectives—This study examined the issue of confidentiality in relation to i) undergraduate curriculum content in physiotherapy, and ii) the awareness, experiences and attitudes of clinical physiotherapists.

Design—Postal survey of universities and focus group interviews with physiotherapists.

Setting—Twenty-five universities in the UK and Ireland and 44 therapists in five hospitals in southern England.

Results—The survey of universities indicated that legal and ethical aspects of confidentiality featured in virtually all preregistration courses that responded. However, whereas its inclusion was rated as extremely important, the degree of coverage of confidentiality varied considerably between courses. Within the focus groups, 35 informants recollected coverage of confidentiality in their preregistration education, and 12 in postregistration in-service training; in neither case was this coverage in great detail. Informants identified environmental factors and working practices as barriers to preserving confidentiality. Disclosure to others also gave rise to difficulties. Informants were only aware in general terms of the relevant sections of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy's Rules of Professional Conduct.

Conclusions—Aspects of hospital-based physiotherapy practice were seen to create specific problems in relation to confidentiality. More detailed sources of education and guidance on this issue appear to be required.

  • Confidentiality
  • ethics
  • physical therapy

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