Accessing information about me

Your health record includes any health information collected during your period of care with NorthWestern Mental Health.

Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Amendment Act (2017) gives you the right to access information held about you by health services and government agencies. 

The Act has a number of main functions which include to:

  • provide a general right of access to documents
  • enable individuals the right to amend (factually) incorrect information held about them
  • provide the right of review in relation to decisions made about the previous two functions

Health records and NorthWestern Mental Health

NorthWestern Mental Health is a clinical service of The Royal Melbourne Hospital.  We also partner with Northern Health and Western Health to provide services to those parts of metropolitan Melbourne.

To support safe, efficient, effective and integrated care, our staff document information about you in the health record of the health service that is partnering in your care.  This information may be collected and recorded by mental health staff working in our community, inpatient, residential or outpatient services.  This information is used to assist in your ongoing care and recovery, and may contain details about your health conditions and the treatments you were given.  Following is a list of our mental health service areas, and the partner health services for each:

NorthWestern Mental Health Partner health service        
InnerWest Area Mental Health Service (Adult) The Royal Melbourne Hospital
Northern Area Mental Health Service (Adult) Northern Health
NorthWest Area Mental Health Service (Adult) Northern Health
Midwest Area Mental Health Service (Adult) Western Health
Orygen The Royal Melbourne Hospital
Aged Persons Mental Health Program (North East Area) Northern Health
Aged Persons Mental Health Program (Western Area) Western Health

Accessing your health record

Requests for access to information within your health record must be made in writing to the Freedom of Information Officer for the partner health service area where your care was provided, as detailed above (for example either The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Western Health or Northern Health). 

Your request can be made either on Freedom of Information request form relevant to the partner health service (see downloadable forms below), or by letter.  To assist you with making a request, general fact sheets and health service application forms can be downloaded below.  Your request should clearly describe the information you are seeking.  The Freedom of Information request form contains prompts for all the required information.

How much will my request cost?

The Freedom of Information (Access Charges) Regulations determines the costs to be charged for granting access to requested documents.  There is a standard application fee for all requests.  Your remaining costs will depend on the type and size of the request being made. Certain charges such as postage may vary very slightly from health service to health service. You will always be informed of any charges that apply to your request prior to being charged.

In certain circumstances, some or all of the fees may be waived if you are in possession of a healthcare card or pension card.  Please contact the FOI Officer at the appropriate partner health service to discuss this further if you have any concerns or queries.

How long will it take to process my request?

Health services have 30 days from the date they receive your application to inform you of the outcome of your request. 

The time between receiving a decision and accessing a copy of your health information will vary, depending on a number of factors, and will always be communicated to you by the FOI Officer at the health service.

Can someone make a request on behalf of another person?

You may make a Freedom of Information request to access another person’s records only if you have their written authority to do so.  Requests may also be made if you can provide evidence that you:

  • Have been appointed as a legal Guardian for the person
  • Have been named Power of Attorney by that person for all of their affairs
  • Are the Senior Next of Kin if the person to whom the documents relate is deceased (or, you have be given signed authority by the deceased person’s senior Next of Kin)

The Freedom of Information Request forms at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Western Health and Northern Health all include a specific section, with the set requirements, for making requests to access the records of another person.

The Freedom of Information Officer will also require photographic identification or certification be presented to validate your identity when making the request (for example driver’s license, passport).

What if information in my health record is incorrect?

If there is information in your record which is incorrect or with which you do not agree, you have the right to request for that information to be corrected. In certain instances health services have the right to refuse your request, but if this happens you will be told the reasons why. 

Who can I contact for further information?

Please contact the FOI Officer at the relevant partner health service if you have any concerns or queries.