How to access information
What information are you entitled to access?
Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust (the Trust) collects information about our patients, the public, our members and our staff. In order to ensure that this information is managed effectively, the Trust has responsibilities under the following Acts of Parliament:
- Data Protection Act (1998) – This Act provides guidance for personal confidential information relating to living individuals.
- Access To Health Records Act (1990) – This Act provides guidance for personal confidential information relating to deceased individuals
- Freedom of Information Act (2000) – This Act provides guidance on non-identifiable information relating to public sector organisations.
Each of these Acts enables the public to access information that is within that remit, as well as guidance on how organisations must manage the requests. Please refer to the information leaflets ‘Your Information – what you need to know’.
As an organisation, we are statutorily responsible for responding to Data Protection Act requests within 40 days and to Freedom of Information Act requests within 20 working days. There is no time limit under the Access to Health Records Act, however we aim to ensure compliance within 40 days, depending on the availability of the records requested.
In line with the requirements of the Data Protection Act and the Access to Health Records Act, there is likely to be a charge for obtaining copies of the records. This will be a minimum of £10, up to a maximum of £50. The cost is dependent upon the amount of information which is to be disclosed and you will be informed of the exact charge, once the record has been reviewed.
There is no charge if you wish to view your records, however this must be via arrangement only.
There is no charge for Freedom of Information Act requests.
How do I access records via the Data Protection Act?
Section 7 of the Data Protection Act states that every living person, or their authorised representative acting on behalf of the individual has the right to apply for access to records relating to them which are held by organisations.
In order to ensure that we provide information appropriately and in line with the Act, we will ask for specific information that is required to progress the request.
A request can be made in writing (either through a letter or email), verbally or through the Subject Access Request form. Depending on the information required and who is requesting the information, further verification may be required.
All requests for person confidential information held by the Trust must be made via the Data Access & Disclosure Office. This includes request made by current or previous staff for access to information that is held by the Trust.
Under the Data Protection Act, the Trust must ensure that each disclosure is lawful and in line with the principles of the Act. As such, some information may be withheld or redacted. This could be for the following reasons:
- Where it has been judged that supplying the information is likely to cause serious harm to the physical or mental health or condition of you, or any other person; or
- Where providing access would disclose information relating to or provided by a third party who had not consented to the disclosure.
How do I access records under the Access to Health Records Act?
The Common Law Duty of Confidentiality extends to an individual after death. Therefore access to the records of the deceased is strictly controlled. A Subject Access Request form must be completed and should include evidence of the right of the requestor to view the record.
Generally, rights of access are restricted to the personal representative of the deceased, generally the Executor or Administrator of the Estate or any person who may have a claim arising from the individual’s death.
How do I access information about the Trust?
On our Trust website www.torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk you will find information relating to locations of services and departments, documentation and contact details.
If you cannot find the information you require on our website, you can make a Freedom of Information request, in writing to the Data Access & Disclosure Office. The request can either be made using the form on our web site or a letter but it must be in writing. Anyone can make a request for information and you are not required to tell us the purpose of the request.
In order for us to process the request, we will need your name, either a postal address or email address, so that we can send our response and if possible, a contact number, in case there are any queries with the request. There is no fee for these requests and we will respond to your request within 20 working days.
There are some instances where will not be able to release the information requested. Should this be the case, we will explain why using the specific exemptions that are noted within the Act.
Environmental Information Regulations
You may also make a request for information under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2003. Request under EIR relate to information about land use, waste, energy, food contamination, pest control, pollution, refuse, waste management, and dog patrol. We should respond within 20 working days, however for complex requests this may be extended to 40 working days.
As with the Freedom of Information requests, EIR requests can be made in writing or using our online form.
Can information refuse to be provided?
As indicated above, information can be withheld for two specific reasons under the Data Protection Act.
In terms of information requested under the Access to Health Records Act, disclosures will be reviewed on an individual basis, to ensure that the rights of the deceased in relation to confidentiality are adhered to.
This may mean that not all information held by the Trust will be disclosed, especially where there is information held about the wishes of the patient in relation to that information.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, there are a number of circumstances when the organisation is not required to disclose information. We will inform you in our response if any of these exemptions apply.Full details of the reasons for non-disclosure can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office website.
How much will my request cost?
For access to information under the Data Protection Act, the following charges apply:
- Images/X-rays £10 per request
- Maternity records £10 per episode
- A&E Attendance £10 per episode
- Electronic Records £10
- Health and Social Care Records = from £10 to a maximum of £50
- Under the Access to Health Records Act, charges do apply, however this will be dependent upon how the record is stored and what information is required. The charge will not be more than £50.
What if I am unhappy with the Trust response?
If you are not satisfied with the Trust’s response to an application for information, you can appeal the decision. A review of the request and the information released will be undertaken by a senior member of staff. The review will be completed within 28 days and the outcome will be shared with you in writing.
If you are then not satisfied with outcome of the appeal you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office who will review the request on your behalf.
Data Access & Disclosure Office
Torquay TQ2 7AA