Data Protection Act 1998
Occupational Health Aspects
D Shackleton. May 2000, updated October 2011.

image The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA 1998, the Act) repealed the whole of the Data Protection Act 1984. The Act had the effect of extending the definition of data to cover manually recorded information as well as automatically processed data, e.g. computerised records. Because of this the provisions of the Access to Health Records Act 1990, as they apply to data on living individuals, have been repealed and replaced by similar provisions in the DPA 1998. The Access to Health Records Act 1990 still applies in respect of the health records of people who have died so record holders will continue to receive applications under that Act. The entire text of the Act will be found at

The Data Protection (Subject Access Modification) (Health) Order 2000 - (referred to here as SI 2000/413) provides for the partial exemption from the provisions of the Act which confer rights on data subjects to gain access to data held about them relating to their physical or mental health or condition if the data would be likely to cause serious harm to his or any other person's physical or mental health or condition.

In this article the main text is a commentary on the Act, section by section, with occasional diversions to later sections or schedules if necessary. Comments are made on the wording of the Act as it might relate to a typical occupational health setting, with health professionals making and keeping health records, both on paper and in computerised systems. The opinions expressed in this document are those of the author, a specialist in occupational medicine. The reader may wish to refer to legal experts for additional information.

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