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Your health is your wealth so looking after your body and keeping a positive frame of mind will only add to the quality of your life.
That is why our guide to your health and well-being should be essential reading as it will help you enjoy life all the more. This is especially important too as we live in an ageing society and mental health issues are on the increase.
If you do fall ill, though, the last thing you or your family want to think about is all the questions we may have regarding our health rights.
Therefore, we provide easy-to-find answers for your health matters.
If it is a minor ailment or concern, visit our local health services section as it includes information about your local doctor, dentist and pharmacy. Otherwise, if you are preparing to go into hospital or are already receiving treatment there, we have the information to hand for hospital stays.
General health rights and entitlements
We have listed your general health rights below in alphabetical order. Further information regarding specific entitlements, please go to the relevant section.
Services should be accessible to all who need them without discrimination.
Your gender, sexuality, age or disability should not have any effect on your treatment or access to treatment.
The majority of health services are available free of charge. You should therefore receive care and treatment based on your need and not on your ability to pay.
Access to Medical Records
You have the right to see your health records and the medical reports written about you, subject to certain safeguards.
You have the right to access these under the Data Protection Act (1998) and Freedom of Information Act (2000) (see below). You also have the right to be informed of the uses of the information and who has access to it.
The Data Protection Act (1998) gives you the right of access to personal data held on you. Where this is denied, you may appeal to either the Data Protection Commissioner or the courts. When you request a copy of a care assessment/medical records, it should be provided within 40 days of the date of request.
In addition, the right under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to make application for official information held by public bodies (the ‘right to know’) came into force in January 2005. For trust staff it means that, in effect, any information held about living individuals is potentially accessible under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
You have the right to make a complaint if you are unhappy with the care or treatment you have received.
You have the right to give or withhold your consent to medical treatment or examination, even if withholding treatment could result in your death. You are entitled to base your decisions on religious beliefs and value systems as long as you understand the implications of your decision.
Even if the decision to withhold consent seems irrational to other people, that choice is yours. When seeking your consent the medical professional should help you make your own, informed choice.
If you are unable to indicate your wishes due to communication difficulties, reasonable steps should be taken to ensure that you can communicate your decision. This may require steps such as communication aids, the use of an interpreter or the use of a speech and language therapist.
Simply going to see a doctor can be regarded as implied consent for examination or treatment, whilst consent in hospitals, for an operation, for example, can be obtained orally or in writing.
When you are asked by a doctor, nurse or therapist to agree to any form of examination, treatment or care you are always free to say no or to request more information before making a decision.
You should not be forced to make a decision before you are ready to do so. If you require more time to consider your decision, you should request this or say no to the treatment or investigation.
Consenting to help training or research
You also have the right to give or withhold consent to taking part in research or student training. If you are asked to allow students to be present when you are treated and you are not comfortable with this, you can say no. This should not affect the quality of care you receive in any way whatsoever.
The same applies if you are asked to take part in research. You do not have to participate and this should not affect the quality of your care.
When is consent not required?
It is important to note that a doctor can examine or treat you without your consent if:
- You are unconscious and cannot indicate consent
- You are detained under the Mental Health (NI) Order 1986
- You are temporarily incapable of giving consent, for example, due to alcohol or drugs
- You have a notifiable disease or are the carrier of a notifiable disease
- Your life is in danger and you cannot indicate your wishes
You should receive emergency care and treatment when required.
Information and Informed Choice
You have the right to have any proposed treatment, its risks and any alternatives properly explained to you. This will allow you to make an informed decision about your care and treatment.
You should be given clear information about treatment or care. This information may include:
- What is wrong with you
- What treatment is available or needs to be carried out
- What progress you are making and how this may change the options open to you
- Clarification if you are unsure of any of this information
You can request that staff keep a friend or relative informed about your progress too.
Doctors should be truthful and thorough in response to questions asked about your care or treatment. However, if the doctor believes it is in the patient's best interests, they can withhold information.
Your Wishes and Involvement
You should be involved, either directly or through representatives, in discussions and decisions regarding your care and treatment.
Insofar as possible, you should have your wishes regarding your care and treatment taken into account.
Emergency: help is at hand for emergency situations.
Be prepared and find out what is classed as an emergency on the NI Direct website.
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