What to do if an agency decides access can only be given through a healthcare professional


The Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) and Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) (IP Act) allow agencies to refuse access to healthcare information if providing the information might be prejudicial to the physical or mental health or wellbeing of the applicant. This Information Sheet is intended to assist applicants who have received a decision of this kind.

What is healthcare information?

Healthcare information is information that has been provided by a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or registered nurse or another person involved in the provision of care for a persons' physical or mental health or wellbeing.

Why has the agency refused to give me direct access to my healthcare information?

The agency has refused to directly provide you with healthcare information in the requested documents because it has formed the view that giving it to you directly would be contrary to your best interests because it might be harmful to your physical or mental health or wellbeing. However, the agency has decided that you may be able to access the healthcare information through your doctor, for example.

The agency's decision notice will outline detailed reasons why the agency has formed this view.

Who can make the decision to refuse me direct access to my healthcare information?

The decision to refuse direct access to healthcare information can only be made by the principal officer of the agency (ie, the most senior person, such as the Chief Executive Officer or a department's Director-General) or by an appropriately qualified healthcare professional who was appointed by the principal officer.

Why does the decision notice say I can access the document through a healthcare professional that I nominate?

The RTI Act and IP Act allow the agency to refuse you direct access to your healthcare information and instead give you access to it only through your nominated healthcare professional.

How do I nominate a healthcare professional?

The legislation does not set out a process for nominating a healthcare professional. It would be best to discuss this directly with the agency and find out what they require (eg, whether they need you to nominate someone in writing or whether you can simply advise them over the telephone who would you like to nominate and their contact details).

Who should I nominate as my healthcare professional?

It is up to you to decide who to nominate; however, the person you nominate has to be approved by the principal officer of the agency before they are given access to the documents. While the principal officer will often approve the healthcare professional nominated, there may be situations when they decide that the person is not suitable and your nominated healthcare professional will not be approved. To avoid this happening, the following factors might be helpful when deciding who you will nominate as your healthcare professional.

It may be a good idea to nominate a healthcare professional you are currently seeing, or one you feel comfortable with, and who is familiar with your history (for example, your current General Practitioner or psychologist).

You may also consider whether you want to nominate a specialist in the field to which the healthcare information relates, for example, if it is psychiatric information then it may help to nominate a psychiatrist.

Will the healthcare professional give me access to my healthcare information?

Once you have nominated a healthcare professional, and the agency has approved them, the agency will give them the documents. From that point it is up to the healthcare professional to decide whether or not to give you access to the healthcare information. For example, they may decide to give you access to all, or only part of, the healthcare information. In some circumstances they may decide that it is not appropriate to give you access to any of the healthcare information.

Will I get copies of the documents containing my healthcare information?

If your nominated healthcare professional decides to give you access to the healthcare information it will be up to them to decide how they will give you access. This may mean you will not be able to see or take copies of the documents containing the healthcare information.

The healthcare professional may decide that it is most appropriate to discuss the healthcare information with you or may only give you access to parts of the documents. A healthcare professional will decide what is most appropriate in each individual circumstance.

Do I have any review rights?

You can seek a review of the decision to refuse your direct access to your healthcare information and only give you access through a healthcare professional.

You cannot apply for a review if the agency refuses to approve your nominated healthcare professional or of any decisions of the healthcare professional to give or refuse you access to your healthcare information.

Your decision notice will outline your review rights in detail and explain how to exercise them. If it is not clear, you should contact the agency decision maker to seek clarification.

Current as at: May 22, 2012