Data Protection Notice

This notice is a broad description of what we, the Scottish Ambulance Service, may do with personal data, in all of our activities as a Data Controller / Organisation.

To understand what we do with your personal data, including who may we share your data with, you may need to refer to additional Scottish Ambulance Service publications, communications and discussions with staff.

1. About the Scottish Ambulance Service

The Scottish Ambulance Service is a public organisation created in Scotland under the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978 (the 1978 Act). It is one of the organisations which form part of NHS Scotland (NHSS).

2. About the personal information we use

We use personal information on different groups of individuals including:

  • Callers
  • Patients
  • Staff
  • Volunteers
  • Students on placement
  • Applicants (for job vacancies, volunteering roles, student placements)
  • Contractors
  • Suppliers
  • Complainants, enquirers
  • Survey respondents
  • Professional experts and consultants
  • Individuals captured by CCTV

The personal information we use includes information that identifies individuals like their name, address, date of birth and postcode.

We also use more sensitive types of personal information, including information about racial or ethnic origin; political opinions; religious or philosophical beliefs; trade union membership; genetic and biometric data, health; sex life or sexual orientation.

The information we use can relate to personal and family details; education, training and employment details; financial details; lifestyle and social circumstances; goods and services; audio recordings; visual images, personal appearance and behaviour; details held in the patient record; responses to surveys.

3. Our purposes for using personal information

Under the 1978 Act the Scottish Ambulance Service has the statutory responsibility to provide or arrange for the provision of a range of healthcare, health improvement and health protection services. We are given these tasks so that we can help to promote the improvement of the physical and mental health of the people in Scotland and assist in operating a comprehensive and integrated national health service in Scotland.

We use personal information to enable us to provide healthcare services for patients, data matching under the national fraud initiative; research; supporting and managing our employees; maintaining our accounts and records and the use of CCTV systems for crime prevention.

4. Our legal basis for using personal information

The Scottish Ambulance Service, as data controller, is required to have a legal basis when using personal information. The Scottish Ambulance Service considers that performance of our tasks and functions are in the public interest. So when using personal information our legal basis is usually that its use is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest, or in the exercise of official authority vested in us. In some situations we may rely on a different legal basis; for example, when we are using personal information to pay a supplier, our legal basis is that its use is necessary for the purposes of performance of a contract. Another example would be for compliance with a legal obligation to which the Scottish Ambulance Service is subject to, for example under the Public Health etc (Scotland) Act 2008 we are required to notify Health Protection Scotland when someone contracts a specific disease.

When we are using more sensitive types of personal information, including health information, our legal basis is usually that the use is necessary:

  • for the provision of health or social care or treatment or the management of health or social care systems and services – (this includes when we are treating you ourselves, or if we are referring you to other services for help) ; or
  • for reasons of public interest in the area of public health; or
  • for reasons of substantial public interest for aims that are proportionate and respect people’s rights, for example research; or
  • in order to protect the vital interests of an individual; or
  • for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims or in the case of a court order.
  • to carry out our obligations and exercise our rights in respect of employment, social security and social protection
  • for archiving purposes, historical or scientific research or statistical purposes that are proportionate and respect people’s rights;

On rare occasions we may rely on your explicit consent as our legal basis for using your personal information. When we do this we will explain what it means, and the rights that are available, to you – including how to exercise your right to withdraw consent, where this is relevant. As an employer, we sometimes process staff health data for the purpose of preventative or occupational medicine, for the assessment of the working capacity of the employee.  

5. Who provides the personal information?

When you do not provide the information directly to us, we receive information from others making a call on a patient’s behalf, or individuals and organisations involved in the delivery of health and care services in Scotland. These include other NHS Boards and primary care contractors such as GPs; other public bodies e.g. Local Authorities; and suppliers of goods and services.

Healthcare professionals in the Scottish Ambulance Service have the ability to view a patient’s Emergency Care Summary (ECS) and Key Information Summary (KIS), which are summary medical records controlled by your GP. There is more information about this in our Patient Information and Confidentiality Leaflet.

6. Sharing personal information with others

Depending on the situation, and only where appropriate, we may share personal information with the following types of recipients:

  • Our patients
  • Family, carers, associates and representatives of the person whose personal data we are processing
  • Staff
  • Current, past and potential employers
  • Healthcare social and welfare organisations
  • Suppliers, service providers, professional advisors and consultants
  • Legal representatives
  • Auditors and audit bodies
  • Educators and examining bodies
  • Research organisations
  • People making an enquiry or complaint
  • Financial organisations
  • Professional bodies
  • Trade Unions
  • Business associates
  • Police forces
  • Security organisations
  • Central and local government; government agencies and regulatory bodies
  • Voluntary and charitable organisations

The law protects your confidentiality and we will not share your personal information with others unless there is a clear legal basis to do so. Any information shared will be appropriate, relevant and proportionate to the purpose of the sharing.

The above list covers what we as an organisation might do with all the kinds of personal information we are responsible for, and might include recipients that we would not typically share patient information with. To understand who we share patient information with, patients are directed to our Patient Information and Confidentiality Leaflet.

7. Transferring personal information abroad

It may sometimes be necessary to transfer personal information overseas. When this is needed information may be transferred to countries or territories around the world. Any transfers made will be in full compliance with the Data Protection Act and NHS Scotland Information Security Policy.

8. Retention periods of the information we hold

Within the Scottish Ambulance Service we keep personal information as set out in the Scottish Government Records Management: NHS Code of Practice (Scotland) Version 2.1 January 2012. The NHS Code of Practice sets out minimum retention periods for information, including personal information, held in different types of records including personal health records and administrative records. As directed by the Scottish Government in the Records Management Code of Practice, we maintain a Service retention schedule detailing the minimum retention period for the information we process, and have procedures for the safe disposal of personal information which our staff follow.

9. How we protect personal information

We take care to ensure your personal information is only accessible to authorised people. Our staff have a legal and contractual duty to keep personal health information secure, and confidential. The following security measures are in place to protect personal information:

  • All staff undertake mandatory training in Data Protection and IT Security
  • Compliance with NHS Scotland Information Security Policy
  • Organisational policy and procedures on the safe handling of personal information
  • Access controls and audits of electronic systems

10. Your rights

This section contains a description of your data protection rights within the Scottish Ambulance Service.

The right to be informed

The Scottish Ambulance Service must explain how we use your personal information. We use a number of ways to communicate how personal information is used, including:

Patients can also understand how all NHS Scotland Boards will handle their information by reading the NHS Scotland Confidentiality and Data Protection and NHS Scotland Access to Health Records publications on the NHS Scotland NHSinform website.

The right of access

You have the right to access your own personal information.

This right includes making you aware of what information we hold along with the opportunity to satisfy you that we are using your information fairly and legally.

You have the right to obtain:

  • Confirmation that your personal information is being held or used by us
  • Access to your personal information
  • Additional information about how we use your personal information

Although we must provide this information free of charge, if your request is considered unfounded or excessive, or if you request the same information more than once, we may charge a reasonable fee, or refuse to process your request.

If you would like to access your personal information, you can do this by contacting our Corporate Affairs team.

The Corporate Affairs team will ask you to complete our Subject Access Request form, and provide ID. Completed forms, and ID should be sent to

Corporate Affairs and Engagement
Scottish Ambulance Service
National Headquarters
Gyle Square
1 South Gyle Crescent
Edinburgh
EH12 9EB
Email: sas.dataprotection@nhs.scot
Tel: 0131 314 0000

Once we have received your request and you have provided us with enough information for us to locate your personal information, we will respond to your request without delay, within 28 days. However if your request is complex we may take up to three months to complete your request. If that is the case, then we will contact you within 28 days to tell you and explain the reason for the delay.

The right to rectification

If the personal information we hold about you is inaccurate or incomplete, you have the right to have this corrected.

If it is agreed that your personal information is inaccurate or incomplete, we will aim to amend your records accordingly. The original information, along with an explanation as to why information has been corrected or amended, must remain on our records though, as an audit trail.

We will normally amend records within one month, or if we need more than a month to process your request, we will let you know. We may take another two months if the request is complex. However, we will contact you as quickly as possible to explain if the need to extend our timescales applies to your request.

Where possible we will restrict access to your records to ensure that inaccurate or incomplete information is not used until amended. We can’t do this if there would be a risk to safety.
If for any reason we have shared your information with anyone else, perhaps during a referral to another service for example, we will notify them of the changes required so that we can ensure their records are also accurate.

If on consideration of your request the Scottish Ambulance Service does not consider the personal information to be inaccurate then we will add a comment to your record stating your concerns about the information. If this is case, we will let you know and explain our reasons for this.

If you are unhappy about how the Scottish Ambulance Service responds to your request for rectification you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office, or take legal action.

The right to object

When the Scottish Ambulance Service is processing your personal information for the purpose of the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority you have the right to object to the processing and also seek that further processing of your personal information is restricted. However, provided the Scottish Ambulance Service can demonstrate compelling legitimate grounds for processing your personal information, for instance; patient safety or for evidence to support legal claims, your right will not be upheld.

Other rights

There are other rights under current Data Protection Law however these rights only apply in certain circumstances. If you wish further information on these rights click here

The right to complain

The Scottish Ambulance Service employs a Data Protection Officer to check that we handle personal information in a way that meets data protection law. If you are unhappy with the way in which we use your personal information, please tell our Data Protection Officer using the contact details below.

Data Protection Officer
Scottish Ambulance Service
National Headquarters
Gyle Square
1 South Gyle Crescent
Edinburgh
EH12 9EB
Email: sas.dpo@nhs.scot

You also have the right to complain about how we use your personal information to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Details about this are on their website at www.ico.org.uk.

11. Translation Service/ Accessibility

Although our website and documents are written in the English language, documents can be made available in other languages and formats on request. On occasion a summary will be provided in the requested language or format. The Scottish Ambulance Service also offers a telephone translation facility when you phone 999.

Contact the Scottish Ambulance Service:

Scottish Ambulance Service
National Headquarters
Gyle Square,
1 South Gyle Crescent
Edinburgh EH12 9EB
Tel: 0131 314 0000

Other Rights

1. The right to erasure

The right to erasure is also known as “the right to be forgotten” and in general refers to an individual’s right to request the deletion or removal of personal  information where there is no compelling reason for the Scottish Ambulance Service to continue using it.

As with other rights, there are particular conditions around this right and it does not provide individuals with an absolute right to be forgotten. 

Individuals have the right to have their personal information deleted or removed in the following circumstances:

  • When it is no longer necessary for the purpose for which it was collected.
  • When the Scottish Ambulance Service no longer have a legal basis for using your personal information, for example if you gave us consent to use your personal information in a specific way, and you withdraw your consent, we would need to stop using your information and erase it unless we had an overriding reason to continue to use it.
  • When you object to the Scottish Ambulance Service using your personal information and there is no overriding legitimate interest for us to continue using it.
  • If we have used your personal information unlawfully.
  • If there is a legal obligation to erase your personal information for example by court order.

The Scottish Ambulance Service can refuse to deal with your request for erasure when we use your personal information for the following reasons:

  • to comply with a legal obligation for the performance of a public interest task or exercise of official authority.
  • for public health purposes in the public interest.
  • archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific research historical research or statistical purpose.
  • the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.

When using personal information our legal basis is usually that its use is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in us under the NHS Scotland Act as noted previously. This means that in most circumstances we can refuse requests for erasure. However we will look at and respond to any requests we receive. We will reply as soon as possible, usually within 1 month. 

2. The right to restrict processing

You have the right to control how we use your personal information in some circumstances. This is known as the right to restriction. 

When processing is restricted, the Scottish Ambulance Service will be permitted to continue to store your personal information, but will not further use it until an agreement is reached with you about further processing, unless further use is necessary for the establishment etc of legal claims, for the protection of the rights of another natural or legal person; or for reasons of important public interest.

We will not restrict processing if doing so may pose a risk to safety. 

We will retain enough information about you to ensure that your request for restriction is respected in the future. 

Examples of ways you can restrict our processing would be:

  • If you challenge the accuracy of your personal information, request that we stop using it until we check its accuracy
  • If you object to processing which is necessary for the performance of our tasks in the public interest or for the purpose of legitimate interests, request that we restrict our processing while we consider whether our legitimate grounds override your individual interests, rights and freedoms.
  • If our use of your personal information is found to be unlawful and you ask for restriction instead of full erasure we will restrict our processing.
  • If we no longer need your personal information but you need it to establish, exercise or defend a legal claim, we will retain your information but restrict our processing of it.

If we have shared your personal information with any individuals or organisations, if we restrict our processing, we will tell those individuals or organisations about our restriction if it is possible and not an unreasonable amount of effort.

Whenever we decide to lift a restriction on processing we will tell you.

3. The right to data portability

The right to data portability allows individuals to obtain and re-use their personal information for their own purposes across different services. It allows them to move, copy, or transfer personal information easily from one IT environment to another in a safe and secure way. For example: it enables consumers to take advantage of applications and services which can use their information to find them a better deal.

However, the right to data portability only applies if the data are being processed to fulfil a contract or steps preparatory to a contract; or, if the only legal basis on which the data are being processed is the consent of the individual. The right also only applies when the individual has submitted their personal information directly, through electronic means to the Scottish Ambulance Service. This means that in most circumstances the right to data portability does not apply within the Scottish Ambulance Service.

4. Rights related to automated decision making and profiling

You have the right to object to any instances where a decision is made about you solely by automated means without any human involvement, including profiling.

However, the Scottish Ambulance Service does not undertake any decision-making about individuals using wholly automated means.

When you make a 999 call, we put the details you give us into sophisticated software. Both the software and our staff use this information to triage the patients symptoms categorise your call, based on urgency. The software we use is a key part of this process but the decision making is not wholly automated. More information is contained in our Patient Information and Confidentiality Leaflet.