Information Requests and Responses – Sections 4, 5 and 10
The 2007 Act gives councils or delegated agencies and other public bodies working with them various powers to support and protect adults at risk of harm.
The 2007 Act confers on 'Council Officers' a duty to investigate cases of suspected harm to an 'adult at risk'. As part of this investigation, health records pertaining to the adult at risk can be requested under Section 10 of the Act. Bodies holding these records have a legal duty to co-operate with the investigation. Under Section 49 of the Act, a person commits an offence by, without reasonable excuse, refusing or otherwise to comply with a request made under section 10.
"Council Officer" is defined at section 53 of the 2007 Act as an individual appointed by a council (local authority or delegated agency) under section 64 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 to properly discharge the council's functions. The Council Officer may be a Social Worker, Occupational Therapist or Nurse who have been delegated the statutory responsibility of Council Officer by the Chief Social Work Officer.
Section 4 of the 2007 Act states that a council (local authority or delegated agency) must make inquiries about a person's wellbeing, property or financial affairs if it knows or believes that the person is an adult at risk of harm, and that it might need to intervene to protect their wellbeing, property or financial affairs.
As part of this process, section 10 of the 2007 Act states that; "a Council Officer may require any person holding health, financial or other records relating to an individual whom the officer knows or believes to be an adult at risk to give the records, or copies of them, to the officer." Where there is any dubiety about the identification of the council officer, you should verify this with the agency directly.
For the avoidance of doubt, data processing, in relation to this request, is necessary for compliance with legal obligations under sections 4, 10 and 49(2) of the 2007 Act.
Under those sections, the data controller is the local authority/the Council Officer making the request; and the GP or Primary Care Team (in receipt of this request) is the subject.
General Practitioners and Information Sharing:
The Scottish Government published additional guidance on the involvement of GPs in multi-agency protection arrangements (2013). This intended to support the involvement of GPs in fulfilling their roles which arise from the Act, and in making a broader contribution to adult protection beyond that required by statute.
It notes that GPs may be the first professionals to see signs of potential harm, and confirms that a collaborative approach is vital as GP participation is invaluable when developing or refining local adult protection policy, procedure and strategy. The new guidance recommends that GPs should be represented on Adult Protection Committees or, where this is not possible, expects that committees will ensure that there are clear lines of communication established with local GPs.