Your rights to access medical records

As part of a clinical negligence claim we often obtain copies of medical records during our initial investigations. Many people, however, come to us for advice on obtaining their medical records independently and this article will provide some guidance as to how this can be done.

There are two acts under which medical records can be obtained, for living patients applications should be made under the Data Protection Act 1998 and if the patient has passed away then certain people can apply for their records under the Access to Health Records Act 1990.

Data Protection Act 1998

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 patients have the right to see or obtain copies of their own medical records. You are not required to provide a reason why you want copies of your medical records. Requests for records should be addressed to the records manager at the relevant GP surgery or hospital and make it clear that the request is under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Once the request is received the healthcare provider will contact you outlining their fees for providing copies of the records. They may not charge you any fee at all, but if they do the amount they are entitled to charge differs depending on how the records are held (electronically, on paper or a combination of the two) and when they were last added to but cannot exceed £50 and is often much less than this. Once they receive payment the healthcare provider has 40 days to provide you with copies of your records. If you don’t receive them within this time you should chase them and remind them this is a breach of their duty under the Data Protection Regulations 2000.

Access to Health Records Act 1990

The Access to Health Records Act 1990 allows certain people, typically family or Personal Representatives of the deceased’s estate or any other person who may have a claim arising from the death, to access the records of patients who have passed away. If it is hospital records that are required then the application process is similar to an application under the Data Protection Act, a request should be made in writing to the records manager at the hospital where the treatment was received, making it clear that the application is under the Access to Health Records Act 1990. You may be asked to provide proof of your identity and relationship with the deceased to ensure you are entitled to access the requested records.

When a patient dies their GP records are typically transferred to be stored centrally by an NHS body called Primary Care Support England, the GP surgery will be able to advise you whether this has happened.  The Primary Care Support England website (http://pcse.england.nhs.uk) provides a detailed application form needed to obtain a deceased patient’s GP records.

To simply view the records under the Access to Health Records Act a fee of £10 can be charged. If copies of the records are required then they are entitled to charge a further fee for photocopying and postage. Unlike a request under the Data Protection Act these charges are not subject to any upper limit.

If after you have obtained your records you have any questions or you would like advice on any possible claim please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our solicitors would be happy to provide you with advice and guide you through your options.

Dan Richardson – March 2017