than “personal information” under the FOI legislation. “Personal data” includes all information about or relating to you while “personal information” covers information that would normally be known only to you and your family.)
In general you are entitled to access your personal information. However, in the case of health records, access may be refused if, in the opinion of the head of the public body which holds the information, disclosure of the information concerned to you might be prejudicial to your physical or mental health, well-being or emotional condition.
If access is refused on this ground, then, if you wish, access may be given to a medical professional nominated by you. Parents and guardians may access the health information of their children under FOI and there are rules about who may access the health information of dead people. The Information Commissioner has drawn attention to problems with these rules. The Commissioner takes the view that they allow access to the records of a dead person by any person who is defined in the rules as a next-of-kin of the deceased person. A next-of-kin includes partners and former partners as well as spouses and children.
Health Information Bill
It is proposed to introduce a Health Information Bill which will deal with the collection, use, sharing, storage, disclosure and transfer of personal health information as well as the rights of individuals to control and access their health information. The Minister for Health and Children is now conducting a public consultation on the proposals to be included in the Bill.
The main purposes of the proposed Bill will be to:
Establish a legislative framework to enable information to be used to best effect to enhance medical care and patient safety
Facilitate the greater use of information technologies for better delivery of patient services
Underpin an effective information governance structure for the health system generally
A Discussion Paper on the Proposed Health Information Bill has been published and is available at
The consultation process will continue until 11 September 2008.
General eligibility for health services
The law on entitlement to health services is quite complex. The main legislation is the Health Act 1970 as amended. The Health Acts of 1947 and 1953 also contain provisions relating to entitlement. These Acts have all been amended several times.
Eligibility and entitlement
Under the Health Acts, the HSE is obliged to provide certain services. For example, it must provide hospital services for everyone. Other services may be provided, for example, home help. The Department of Health and Children take the view that you are “eligible” for the various services and that this is not the same as being “entitled” to them. The Ombudsman does not accept this distinction and it has never been argued in a court.