FAQs on access to medical records


Do you have a right to access your medical records?

Under the Data Protection Act 1998, you have a legal right to apply for access to health information held about you. This includes access to both private and NHS medical records, such as from doctors, hospitals, dentists and specialists.

How do you request access?

You can simply ask your medical professional to let you see your medical records. They may be happy to print off the information you wish to see. You can make an informal request either during a consultation or by telephone. You can also make a formal request in writing, known as a Subject Access Request. Hospitals usually have a health records manager or patient services manager who deals with such requests. You should clearly specify in your request which records you wish to see.

Can your request be refused?

Under the Data Protection Act, requests for access to records should be responded to within 40 days with the aim of responding within 21 days according to government guidelines. A request for access to medical records can be refused if the medical practitioner believes that releasing the information may cause serious harm to your physical or mental health or that of another person.

Can anyone else access your medical records?

Health records are confidential. Someone else can only access your records if you have authorised them to do so. You may authorise someone else to access your medical records either by recording your permission in writing or by entering into a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Can you access a deceased person’s medical records?

The Access to Health Records Act 1990 sets out who may apply for access to the health records of someone who has died. Usually the only people allowed to apply for access are the personal representatives of the person who has died (such as the executor or administrator) and any person who may have a claim resulting from the person’s death.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on access to medical records, then Caven can put you in touch with a local specialist solicitor free of charge. So if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local specialist solicitors please call us on 08001 221 2299.

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