UK Bullying Helpline Under Fire for Breach of Confidentiality

One of the most important elements of caring treatment and psychological services for many clients is the guarantee of confidentiality that they can expect from professionals. This importance of confidentiality and the trust that underlies it have come under heavy scrutiny this week as the UK attempts to sort out whether a national bullying helpline should have disclosed information about calls originating from the office of the Prime Minister. While debate rages over the nature and validity of the claims, therapists and other professionals may take interest in the question of whether the information should have been divulged to the public at all.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment


    February 24th, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    Whether the person is a well-known athelete or politician or is someone from a remote corner who nobody knows, confidentiality promised should be kept up, no excuses whatsoever. This disclosure, I think, was made just to gain some mileage of it with regard to the helpline. Nevertheless, it is a cheap way of publicising.

  • clive


    February 24th, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    every such organization keeps up the confidentiality I’m sure…it must be the work of some unauthorized person who gained access to records or something… it definitely is a case of data theft, either electronically or physically. So instead of blaming the organization, we must look into preventing such incedents from repeating in the future.

  • V.Richards


    February 25th, 2010 at 5:16 AM

    if the confidentiality is under a shadow of doubt then the number of people making use of the service and actually benefitting from it will definitely reduce. this will also cast a doubt on the entire system!

  • Marla


    February 25th, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    Why would there even be a need for disclosure? If citizens feel like what they say is not going to be held confidential then why would they ever choose to use the system?

  • soldy


    February 25th, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    The only exception I could see would be if the responder felt the call was a threat to national security. It did after all come from the highest office in the land. If for example the person had said they were going to kill their boss and that boss was a high ranking official or even the PM, can you blame them for disclosing it? Because if something terrible had happened, whoever took the call would have been made a scapegoat for not reporting it. That is the sole reason I can think of.

    Of course it should never have been disclosed to the media no matter what the circumstances but could have been reported to the police quietly. They could have handled it from there and decided whether it was a threat or not.

  • steve sameul

    steve sameul

    February 25th, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    now this is something that is bound to cast a doubt over the genuineness in the promises of confidentiality made by the various agencies involved in such services…people will not be very comfortable making use of the services if confidentiality is not guaranteed.this does not go well because we should look at increasing the number of people making use of such a service to benefit themselves.

  • amanda F

    amanda F

    February 26th, 2010 at 6:40 AM

    the agency involved should come out with an apology and asssure that such an occurance will not happen again, so as to regain confidence of the public. Also, the agency should work towards strenthening the confidentiality aspect in its internal structure.

  • Thomas


    February 26th, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    What it boils down to is that they were under no legal obligation to do so. Read the article. “Currently, in the UK, however, there is no national enforced regulation of the counselling profession. The government is making moves to regulate counselling and we in the profession hope that it will be done sensibly. ”

    No heads will be rolling here in a courtroom because no one’s broken the law.

  • Regina


    February 27th, 2010 at 8:00 AM

    Treatment, no matter the venue in which it is offered, should remain confidential.

  • Joan


    February 27th, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    Not having broken the law does not justify saying one thing and doing another. What they did is morally wrong. The NBH promised confidentiality. They didn’t keep their promise. Ultimately they have done themselves irreparable damage, court or no court. I’ll be very surprised if this group still exists in six months.

  • ASmom


    February 27th, 2010 at 8:25 PM

    I would have been horrified if I’d called that line then learned of this on the news! How many are sitting at home worried sick that the content of their calls will be disclosed? That’s disgraceful.

  • Sugarlove


    February 28th, 2010 at 8:02 PM

    I hope they don’t go under because we need all the resources addressing bullying that we can get. Unfortunately the incident will likely lay a blanket of suspicion on all helplines in a caller’s eyes. The NBH staff have tainted the whole sector in my opinion. Shame.

  • Samuel


    March 1st, 2010 at 8:46 PM

    And the person who loses the most in this? It’s not Brown, and it’s not even Pratt or the staff member that took the call. It’s the one who made it. You can bet there’s a witch hunt going on in Downing St to discover who it was if they don’t know already.

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