How to get your medical records

It is possible to ask to see your health records informally (without obtaining copies). An informal request can be made during a consultation or by telephoning your GP surgery or hospital to arrange a time to view your records.

If you wish to obtain copies of your medical records it is necessary to make an application in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 which gives you a right to apply for access to health records held about you. The Data Protection Act covers applications in respect NHS or private health records held by GPs, opticians, dentists, hospitals and any other healthcare provider.

In order to obtain copies of your records pursuant to the Data Protection Act a signed application must be made in writing to the relevant health professional.

There is a £50.00 maximum fee for the provision of copy records held electronically and on paper or other media. Your health care provider is obliged to provide copy records no more than 40 days after the date of any application and the payment of the relevant fee.

Normally a person with parental responsibility has the right to apply for access to their child’s health record. The law regards young people between the ages of 16-17 as adults in respect of their right to confidentiality. Children under the age of 16 have the capacity and understanding to take decisions about their treatment are also entitled to decide whether personal information may be passed on and generally to have their confidence respected.

The Data Protection Regulations enable a Data Controller to limit or deny access to an individual’s health record where the information may cause serious harm to the physical or mental health or condition of the patient or any other person, or access would disclose information relating to or provided by a third person who has not consented to that disclosure, unless it is reasonable to disclose without that third party’s consent.

Former patients living outside the UK who have had treatment in the UK have the same rights under the Data Protection Act to apply for access to their UK health records.

Records should reflect the observations, judgements and factual information collected by the contributing health professional and the fourth principle of the Data Protection Act 1998 requires that information should be accurate and kept up-to-date. This provides legal basis for seeking correction of factual inaccuracies if necessary, although opinions or judgements recorded by health professionals whether accurate or not, are generally not deleted when a request is made to correct factual inaccuracies.

Access to deceased patient’s health records

The Access to Health Records Act 1990 provides for the provision of copy records of deceased patients to those with a statutory right to apply for them. Generally speaking the personal representative of the deceased is the only person who has an unqualified right of access to their records. Individuals other than the personal representative have a legal right of access under the Act only where they can establish a claim arising from the patient’s death.

Applications for records made pursuant to the Health Records Act 1990 should be complied with by the relevant instruction within the 40 day period which applies under the Data Protection Act 1998.

If paper copies of records are requested under the Health Records Act 1990 the £50 limit applicable to Data Protection Act 1998 requests does not apply and there is no limit to the fee, although any charge should not result in a profit for the record holder.

Under the Access to Health Records Act 1990 the record holder has a right to deny or restrict access to the records if it is felt that disclosure would cause serious harm to the physical or mental health to any other person or would identify a third person who has not consented to the release of that information.