If an organisation holds personal information about you, it must allow you to access the information if you request it. The exception, in relation to health information, is if access would pose a serious threat to the life or health of any person. There are other limited exceptions (see National Privacy Principals #6).
The organisation cannot charge a fee for lodging an application for access. However they can charge a fee for reasonable administrative costs such as photocopying and postage expenses.
If you request your records from an organisation and they refuse you the right to access or correct your records, you can complain to the Australian Information Commissioner (1300 363 992) under section 36(1) of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).
The National Privacy Principles under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) apply to: individual practitioners working for corporate practices, corporations, incorporated partnerships and commonwealth public institutions / service providers and corporate aged-care facilities. The National Privacy Principles and the Act do not apply to state public institutions (hospitals), small businesses that do not provide health services, or sole practitioners or unincorporated partnerships.
What are health records?
Health records are:
- Personal information or opinion about the physical or mental health or disability of a person, or
- The person's wishes about the future provision of health services, or the health services that have been, or are to be provided.
As a patient you have a right to obtain a copy of, or inspect, your health records. You need to request access in writing, including your name, address and sufficient information to identify the health information. Your request must specify whether you want a copy or you want to inspect the records.
Within 45 days of your request you must be allowed to have a copy of the records or to inspect the records and make handwritten notes. Where access is refused, written reasons must be given for the refusal within 45 days of the date of your request. There are limited grounds for refusing access.
If no response is received or the request is refused by the practitioner or private hospital, a complaint may be made to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner NSW (02) 8019 1600.
A guardian appointed under an enduring guardianship appointment has the same rights to access personal information as the individual who made the guardianship appointment.
Applications for access to public hospital documents are to be made under the freedom of information legislation, Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW).
￼Applications for access to health records to private hospitals and private practitioners are made under the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 (NSW).