Trusted Contacts

Understand what a trusted contact is and the University's approach to trusted contacts.

As members of the Edinburgh community the NHS and other statutory agencies are responsible for the provision of health and social care to our students. We expect that students who are unwell will engage with these agencies according to their needs. The University, as a provider of higher education, is not the appropriate organisation and does not have the expertise or capacity to closely monitor students’ mental or physical health, nor to provide health care.

If the University becomes aware that a student is unwell, causing it to have concerns for their welfare, it may, where it regards it as appropriate, seek to engage with third parties to address those concerns, as set out here.


What is a trusted contact?

A trusted contact is someone the University can reach out to if there are serious concerns about a student’s health or wellbeing.

A trusted contact is someone the student nominates, whom they trust to handle sensitive information about them. A trusted contact should be willing to work with us and statutory/emergency services (e.g. GP’s or other NHS services), acting in the student’s best interests, for example if they become unwell, or we have serious concerns about their wellbeing.

The student should explain to their trusted contact that we may reach out to them if we have serious concerns about their health or wellbeing. Students are strongly encouraged to inform their trusted contact they have chosen them to act in this important role.

Who can be nominated as a trusted contact?

To take on the role of trusted contact they must be over the age of 18. In most cases, a trusted contact will be a parent, a guardian, partner or other close family member. However, a trusted contact can also be close friend. Whoever is nominated, it is really important that this is someone the student trusts to act in their best interests and is aware that they have been nominated to take on this role.

A trusted contact should care about the student and know about their medical, social history and lived experience. The student should be confident their nominated trusted contact will respect their privacy and be confident in handling the responsibility of this role. A trusted contact should be able to speak English and be contactable by phone.

When will we use trusted contact information?

We will not normally reach out to speak to a trusted contact without the student’s expressed knowledge. However, emergency situations may arise when we will need to contact their nominated trusted contact without prior discussion. The trusted contact we use will be the person most recently identified by the student, and who remains the named trusted contact at the time the support is required. We might look to make contact with a trusted contact in the following circumstances:

  • Where the student is accessing support and agrees with the staff member that it would be beneficial to contact the trusted contact;
  • When a student asks a member of university staff to contact their trusted contact. This might be because they are unwell and/or do not feel able to make contact themselves.
  • In a medical or other emergency situation when we will make use of the trusted contact in their vital interests.

By providing us with a trusted contact the student provides permission to the university to contact this individual in circumstances such as those set out here. Students can change or remove their identified trusted contact information at any time via their e-vision student record.

We may also reach out to a trusted contact without specific consent in exceptional circumstances that lead us to have grave concern about a student’s wellbeing. Please note that in many of these cases the responsibility for contacting a trusted contact will reside with statutory service providers such as the NHS. Examples of such circumstances may include:

  • Where we become aware a student is (or will be) hospitalised due to an emergency.
  • Where we become aware a student has suffered a serious injury or has become seriously unwell.
  • If a student ceases to engage with their studies and/or professional support and/or does not respond to a reasonable number of attempts to contact them.
  • If we have been made aware a student has an ongoing serious illness (physical or mental), and/or there is evidence their health may be deteriorating.
  • Where there may be a threat to the student concerned, or to another person as a result of that student’s action.
  • Where there is a risk to the student concerned, or to another person and the student concerned cannot physically or legally give consent.
  • Where a student needs care or support and the lack thereof is affecting their wellbeing.
  • Where a student is at risk/experiencing harm or neglect.
  • If we think a student cannot protect themselves against harm, neglect or the risk of it.
  • Where we are guided to consider making contact by statutory services such as police, NHS, Social Work.
    (Please note this list is not exhaustive.)

A decision to contact a trusted contact will be made in response to an assessment of the risk of harm using the information available to us. The decision will normally be made by appropriately senior and/or qualified staff in the Wellbeing and Inclusion team.

Will trusted contact information be shared outside the university?

The University works in partnership with statutory/emergency services, agencies and other third-party organisations where this helps to keep our students, staff and the community safe. With consent we may pass trusted contact information to relevant agencies so that they can help facilitate the provision of support to the student concerned.

The University may share trusted contact information with the emergency services if requested to do so without a student’s permission or knowledge if circumstances warrant this e.g., we think this is in the student’s vital or best interests, if it may help to prevent harm to the student concerned, or to someone else, or it is requested as part of a police investigation or may be helpful to the emergency services for the purpose of admission to hospital.

Is it mandatory to provide a trusted contact?

Students are not legally required to provide a trusted contact to us. However, all students are strongly recommended to nominate a trusted contact as noted above as we believe this to be in their best interests.

Can students change their trusted contact?

It is important all students take ownership of their nominated trusted contact and review it regularly. They can change their nomination at any time by updating information on their e-vision student record.