Patients’ rights

The rights of a patient as a user of health-care services of all providers of health-care services, procedures for exercising these rights in case of their violation, and obligations related to these rights are specified in the Patient Rights Act (Official Gazette of the RS, No.  15/08; hereinafter referred to as the Act).

The purpose of the Act is to enable equal, adequate, high-quality and safe health care.    

Right to access to health care and provision of preventive services
Right to equal access and treatment in health care
Right to free choice of a physician and health-care service provider
Right to adequate, high-quality and safe health care
Right to respect of patients’ time
Right to information and cooperation
Right to make independent decisions on medical treatment
Right to reconsider a previously expressed will
Right to the prevention and relief of suffering
Right to second opinion
Right to access medical files
Right to privacy and personal data protection

Right to access to health care and the provision of preventive services

Pursuant to the regulations on health insurance, patients have the right to access to health care and the provision of adequate preventive health-care services necessary for the preservation of their health and prevention of diseases, in accordance with the current medical doctrine, professional standards and norms, and development of the health-care system in Slovenia. 

By its nature, the right to emergency medical assistance is an absolute right and may not be conditional, especially not regarding payment or referral.

Right to equal access and treatment in health care

Patients have the right to equal treatment in health care, regardless of any circumstances (e.g. age, religion or belief, sex, nationality, disability, material standing, race, sexual orientation). 

The Act provides special protection for children in health care, as it guarantees them the right to be constantly accompanied by a parent or another person caring for the child unless is no in the child's best interests.    

Special protection in health care is also provided for other vulnerable groups.

Right to free choice of a physician and health-care service provider

The Act provides patients with the opportunity to freely choose a physician and health-care service provider (health-care institution), regardless of their place of residence.

Right to adequate, high-quality and safe health care 

The Act prescribes the adequacy, quality and safety standard for all types of health care.

Adequate health care takes into consideration patients’ specific health needs, as well as the capacities of the health system in Slovenia; it is based on simple administrative procedures and treats patients as equal partners.

High-quality health care guarantees outcomes comparable to the standards and best practices, and observes the fundamental quality principles of quality.

Safe health care prevents harm to patients, especially to their health.

Within the scope of public funds, patients are entitled to health care if this is medically necessary and if the expected benefits for the patient outweigh the risks.

A health-care service provider guarantees the conditions for the provision of religious and spiritual care.

Right to respect of patients' time

Emergency medical assistance is an action that cannot be postponed and is necessary for the maintenance of essential functions and prevention of irreparable and severe deterioration in a person's medical condition. It also covers ambulance transport.  Emergency medical assistance shall be provided immediately.

Health-care service providers are obliged to organise their work in such a way that patients do not have to wait in a waiting room longer than necessary and that health-care services, as regards waiting times, are provided within a reasonable time.

Health-care service providers shall organise their work in such a way that waiting times do not exceed 20 minutes at the primary level of health services, and 60 minutes at the secondary and tertiary levels of health services. The limitation does not apply when a health-care service provider is offering emergency medical assistance, of which the patients in the waiting room shall be informed. Scheduled patients have priority over walk-in (non-urgent) patients.

For health-care services which are not urgent and cannot be provided immediately, patients are placed on a waiting list in accordance with the degree of urgency. Health-care service providers also offer patients the possibility of making an appointment by phone or e-mail. Patients can find data on minimum waiting times for certain services and clinics on the websites of the National Institute of Public Health.

If case a patient has to wait for a particular health-care service for more than three months, the Act provides the possibility of requiring a follow-up examination by the physician who made the referral. 
   
If a patient misses a scheduled appointment for justifiable reasons, a health-care service provider shall inform him/her of the earliest possible new date for an appointment.

A patient may be placed on a waiting list for a certain health-care service with only one health-care provider in the public health-care network.

A patient has the right within a reasonable time to a specialist clinical examination to which he/she has been referred, and to a written report within three working days after the examination at the latest.

Health-care institutions are obliged to publish on their websites the waiting times for individual health care services and clinics.

Right to information and cooperation

A patient has the right to receive information from health-care workers in the Slovenian language or, in regions where the language of the Italian or Hungarian National Community is also in official use, in the language of a national community.

During treatment, a patient has the right to be informed about:
  • his/her health condition and probable development and consequences of a disease or injury,
  • the aim, type, treatment method and probability of success, expected benefits and results of the proposed treatment,
  • potential risks, side effects, negative consequences and other disadvantages of the proposed treatment, including the consequences of omitting treatment,
  • other possibilities of treatment,
  • procedures and methods of treatment not available in Slovenia or not covered by the rights arising from compulsory health insurance.
A physician must provide explanations (explanatory duty) to a patient in direct contact, discreetly, in an easily understandable manner, fully and in due time. A patient has the right to be promptly and fully informed on the course of treatment, and, at the end of the procedure or treatment, on the results.

A patient has the right to actively participate in the selection of treatment.

A patient has the right to know who is treating him/her and who is involved in his/her treatment.

After release from a hospital or other institution, a patient has the right to receive a written report on diagnosis, treatment and health care, and to be given instructions for further treatment and conduct until the first visit to a family doctor, including medication and medical devices.   

If a health-care service is paid partially or in full by a patient, the provider must submit to the patient prior written information on anticipated costs of health-care services, and, after the provision of the service, a receipt for services provided, medication and medical devices.

Right to make independent decisions on medical treatment

A patient has the right to consent to health care, which means that he/she can freely decide on his/her medical treatment, and that after the provision of explanations, it is not allowed to provide him/her any kind of health care (e.g. transport with an ambulance, X-ray examination, dental procedure, surgery, physiotherapy) without his/her free and informed consent. The consent is generally given orally. For surgical and other medical procedures related to greater risk or greater stress, the consent must be in written form, on a special form. 

The following services may be provided without a patient’s consent:
  • emergency medical assistance when a patient is not able to make decisions for himself/herself or is not able to express his/her will , or
  • health care which is not urgent or does not entail a surgical procedure with greater risk or greater stress, if:
    • a patient is not able to make decisions for himself/herself,
    • the doctor was not aware that the patient had refused the procedure, and
    • the health care is in the best interest of the patient’s health.
A patient also has the right to refuse the proposed health care unless this would threaten the life or seriously endanger the health of other people.

  If a patient is able to make decisions for himself/herself, he/she may also refuse emergency medical assistance.  However, parents or a guardian may not refuse emergency medical assistance for a child. The same applies to patients with mental health problems.

A patient may revoke the given consent or refusal at any time.

For a child who is not able to make decisions on his/her treatment, consent shall be given by his/her parents or guardians.  Normally, a 15-year old child is able to make decisions on his/her treatment; however a doctor may assess, according to a child's age and actual maturity, that a child is able  make decisions also before the age of 15.  Likewise, a doctor may assess that a child who is already 15 is not capable of giving consent.

Right to consider a previously expressed wish

An adult patient who is able to make decisions for himself/herself has the right to designate with a written authorisation, a medical representative (e.g. spouse, partner, parents or any other person he/she can trust) who in case of, and for the time of the patient’s incapacity to make decisions for himself/herself, makes decisions on the patient’s health care (e.g. on examinations, surgical procedures, minor procedures) and other rights arising from this Act (e.g. on the submission of the application for a hearing regarding the violation of the patient’s rights, access to the patient’s medical files). 

The Act also anticipates the right to the advance refusal of health care under which a patient expresses his/her will in written form in advance, explaining what type of health care is not allowed if he/she is  unable to directly refuse health care, and: 
  • would at the same time suffer from a serious disease leading to death within a short period even with adequate health care, and health care would only prolong survival, or 
  • health care would prolong his/her life in a situation where a disease or injury would cause such a serious disability that he/she would permanently lose his/her physical or mental ability to care for himself/herself.

Right to the prevention and relief of suffering

A patient has the right to eliminate or relieve pain and other suffering related to his/her disease as much as possible.

In the final stage of an incurable disease, a patient has the right to palliative care.

Right to a second opinion

The Act enables patients to obtain, at any time, a second opinion, i.e. an opinion for the assessment of the same health condition and treatment procedures, provided by a specialist doctor or a panel of doctors.

Within the network of public health-care service providers (public institutions and doctors with concession), it is possible to exercise this right upon a patient’s request when the need for a second opinion arises at the secondary or tertiary level (e.g. during a specialist examination or hospital treatment).  A second opinion for the assessment of the same health condition may be obtained only once, prior to which the patient shall discuss the matter with the doctor who is treating him/her.

Right to access medical files

A patient has the right to freely access and copy his/her medical files in the presence of a health-care worker. A copy is provided by a health-care service provider, who may charge the patient only for the material costs thereof. A patient may also request a copy of his/her comments to the notes in medical files and oral explanations regarding medical files.

After a patient's death, his/her medical files may be accessed by his/her spouse, common law partner, partner in same-sex partnership, biological and adopted children or, if no such persons exist, the patient’s parents. Apart from the above-mentioned persons, the files may also be accessed by other persons who have a legal interest or for which prior written consent has been granted by the patient.  Prior to his/her death, a patient may also explicitly prohibit such access to certain persons (e.g. relatives).

Right to privacy and personal data protection

In providing health care, health-care service providers must respect patients’ privacy, in particular as to who may be present at the direct provision of health care. 

A patient has the right to the confidentiality of personal data on all details of his/her medical treatment.

Health-care workers are obliged to keep as professional secret all the information obtained while performing their work.  

Health-care providers must investigate and document all established cases of unauthorised disclosure of data or other unauthorised processing of patient’s personal data, and inform the patient thereof.

Links to the Act and implementing regulations: