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Legislative background

The Data Protection Act 1998

The Data Protection Act 1998 grants the public unprecedented access to their personal information. With only a few exceptions the public can request either copies or viewings of any opinion, biographical document or assessment made specifically to record information about them. They further have the right to request changes to be made to information that is deemed erroneous, unfair, incomplete, irrelevant or outdated.

The Act also grants specific rights relating to digitally held information (e.g. on a computer) and its processing such that the public can request human intervention into automated decision making and where appropriate removal or denial of digitally recorded information.

The Access to Health Records Act 1990

The Data Protection Act applies to the data of the living while the Access to Health Records Act 1990 applies only to the data of the deceased. The NHS however considers that the living and the deceased have the same rights in expectation of privacy and confidentiality of their personal information.

The Access to Health Records Act 1990 has been mostly overwritten by the Data Protection Act 1998 and other legislation. In most respects what remains of the Act's provisions are aligned to cooperate with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Differences to the Freedom of Information Act 2000

Although the Freedom of Information Act 2000 may appear to be similar to the Data Protection Act and Access to Health Records Act, there is a substantial difference between them.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 is unable to provide the public access to personal information about living people or personal information about the deceased which is not part of a publicly accessible archive.

The Freedom of Information Act does provide public access to a wide range of non-personal information.

Similarly the Data Protection Act and Access to Health Records Act can only provide the public access to personal information, and cannot provide access to non-personal information.

For more information on how the Trust provides information using the Freedom of Information Act 2000, please see the Freedom of Information pages.

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