The Access to Health Records Act came into force on 1 November 1991. This legislation allows patients access to their written medical records (access to computerised records is covered by separate legislation). Concerns have been expressed about the implications of this Act for staff and patients, particularly in psychiatry. These concerns have included detrimental effects on patients exposed to their notes and the restrictions it could place upon staff in recording speculation or subjective opinion. We report the following findings: staff attitudes to the new legislation including awareness of the Act, evaluation of the Act as useful or detrimental and the Act's implications on clinical practice.