Confidentiality in student support

Posted 1 month ago

How we keep your information private

During your time at university, you might sometimes need a little extra help and support to ensure you remain healthy, well, and performing your best, academically and socially. But some students are worried about asking for help because they are unsure about who will be told that they needed support, and if there could be implications for their grades or references.

In this article, we’ll try to help you understand how confidentiality works in student support. This includes the health, wellbeing, and disability services at your university; the Wardens and Resident Advisors in Intercollegiate Halls, and any NHS or private healthcare services that you might access here in London.

What does confidential mean?

Healthcare, psychological, counselling, and student support services are confidential. This means that, except in very limited circumstances (explained below), you can get help from these services and they will:

  • not tell anyone else that you have accessed their service;
  • not share any information about you with anyone else.

Your academic tutors, lecturers, parents, guardians, family, and friends will not know that you have accessed any of these services. Nothing you disclose to your doctor, nurse, counsellor, psychologist, student support professional, or hall Warden will be shared with anyone else, subject to the exceptions below.

What are the exceptions?

Information about you might be shared with others in the following circumstances:

  • to seek advice about how to best help you (for example, by speaking with their manager or supervisor);
  • to make a referral to another service or professional for further or more specialist help;
  • to help keep you or other people safe.

The professional who wants to share information about you will normally ask for your explicit consent before contacting anyone else. They should let you know who they want to share information with, what information they will share, and why they want to do this. If you refuse consent for them to share information, they will not normally do so.

However, if the healthcare or student support professional reasonably believes that you or someone else is at serious and imminent risk, then they may have a responsibility to break confidentiality to help ensure safety. For example, if you told your support worker that you were actively thinking about suicide, they may need to contact emergency services or a mental health professional even if you refuse consent. They would normally tell you in advance that they were going to do this, unless it was impossible or inappropriate for them to speak to you first.

If you have provided "next of kin" or "trusted contact" details

Many support services will ask you to provide contact information for a person or people you would like to be informed in an emergency situation. They might ask for your general consent to use these contacts in advance, at the time when you provide the information. Even then, if they want to contact your next of kin, emergency contact, or trusted persons, they will normally ask again for your consent before actually doing so. They would usually only rely on your advance general consent if – again – it was impossible or inappropriate to ask you for specific consent at the time of needing to share. For example, if you were found unconscious in halls, we would use your emergency contact information as well as calling an ambulance.

Don't let concerns about confidentiality be a barrier to seeking support

Rules and regulations about confidentiality, data protection, and information sharing are very strict in the UK. You can be confident that healthcare professionals and student support workers will not share your personal information without your permission, unless they are very worried about safety.

Find out more about confidentiality in the Intercollegiate Halls

Resident Advisors (RAs)

In the Intercollegiate Halls, RAs are student volunteers who work with the Hall Wardens to signpost and support students living in the halls. As a halls resident, you can speak with an RA about private matters, confident that they will not share your information with other students or residents. RAs are obliged to file a written report to the Hall Warden and Hall Manager about any significant issues or concerns. They will ask for your permission to also share this report with the other RAs on the team. You can decline permission to share with the other RAs, but the Warden and Hall Manager will always need to be informed.