Your medical file and your rights

Several of you got in touch with Generation 2004, concerned about difficulties in accessing your own medical files.  You have the right to verify, modify or delete your  administrative data, all you have to do is ‘apply to the Head of the Medical Service … The results of medical examinations and the diagnosis cannot be altered, but you may add your own comments.’ (Point 5, Information note on data protection, 2017). Those who contacted us complained that they did not receive full access to their medical files. We sent a note on your behalf to the Secretary General  (SG) requesting she ensure that:

  • the Commission comply with the applicable EU law:
  • that the Data Protection Officer take all necessary measures to:
    • comply with the applicable legislation and European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) decision;
    • update the data-protection record;
  • the HR Medical Service modify its procedures in order to facilitate the access of staff to their own personal data there.

In the response we were reassured that the access is provided in line with the applicable legislation and that the delay with case 2018-0200 was caused by a technical issue. The response further state that they ‘are not aware of any pending complaints regarding access to medical files ….’.

We will check with our colleagues and update you on this topic.

What is this matter about exactly?

The cases which have been brought to our attention show that access to medical files and the right to update the information contained there are very important, particularly when it comes to bullying (‘psychological harassment’) or the invalidity procedure (where a decision is taken on whether a colleague is fit enough to continue to work).  A lack of transparency leads to questionable fairness and motives [1]. Of course, occasionally there may be legitimate reasons for insisting that a colleague’s doctor access parts of the file on their behalf. However, we all still have the right to consult (via a healthcare professional, if necessary) the information in the  medical history and to correct it or add a note where necessary.

Last year (4 March 2020), the EDPS concluded in its decision on case 2018-0200 that the European Commission’s Medical Service violated Article 13 of the Regulation (EC) 45/2001 while failing to provide access to personal data to the data subject in “a timely manner”. In our understanding the main problem was twofold: that the colleagues did not receive the requested information in a reasonable length of time and also that the information received was incomplete.

A long journey…and still not finished?

In September 2009 the EDPS provided recommendations to the European Commission and asked the institution to comply with the respective Regulation (EC) 45/2001 [2] to ensure that the right to access and rectify information is complied with.

Subsequently, the Commission announced in its Administrative Notice No 67-2009/28.10.2009, almost 12 years ago, that it was to start digitalising and store medical files electronically, in line with the Staff Regulations. The Commission also informed staff about their corresponding rights and the conditions under which they can access these files, as set by the College of Chiefs of Administration (CCA) in Conclusion 221/04 (19.02.2004) [3].

If any of you would like our help with a complaint or have an experience to share please get in touch or add a comment below!

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[1] We have examples of colleagues repeatedly  ‘encouraged’ to request the opening of an invalidity procedure for themselves in spite of not meeting the specified minimum sick leave, having no desire to leave the institutions and feeling fully able to perform their duties. The reasons for such encouragement are not transparent, not explained and it is also concerning that we have heard that after meetings with the Medical Service, reports are not systematically issued, limiting the extent to which a colleague might be able to correct the record. Add to this any limitations in accessing the medical file (time/content) and we potentially have injustice: colleagues less able to defend themselves and an administration basing decisions on incorrect or out-of-date information.

It is good practice to make a summary yourself after the meeting and share it with the Medical Service. Remember you can also attend a meeting accompanied by a person of your choice.

Based on our exchanges, it has become clear to us that we need to start documenting this subject of ‘reluctant’ invalidity procedures since it can easily be perceived (rightly or wrongly) as a harassment/discrimination tool (just as the annual appraisal can also be). Please send us your experiences of this process, they will be treated in confidence.

[2] Repealed by Regulation (EU)  2018/1725

[3] Available on p.2 in French only, here is the eTranslation tool.

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