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Request Access to your Medical Records (Health Hecords)

How to access your medical records, someone else's medical records
and of someone who has died. Also the fees involved.

If you want to view your health records, you may not need to make a formal application. Nothing in the law prevents healthcare professionals from informally showing you your own records. You can make an informal request during a consultation, or by phoning your GP surgery or hospital to arrange a time to see your records.

Formal requests under the Data Protection Act

Under the Data Protection Act 1998, you have a legal right to apply for access to health information held about you. This includes your NHS or private health records held by a GP, optician or dentist, or by a hospital.

A health record contains information about your mental and physical health recorded by a healthcare professional as part of your care.

If you want to see your health records, you don't have to give a reason.



Applying for access to your health records

Depending on which health records you want to see, submit your request in writing or by email to:

  • your GP surgery
  • your optician
  • your dentist, or
  • the health records manager or patient services manager at your local hospital trust

This is known as a Subject Access Request (SAR).

It's a good idea to state the dates of the records when you apply.

The health records manager, GP or other healthcare professional will decide whether your request can be approved. They can refuse your request if, for example, they believe that releasing the information may cause serious harm to your physical or mental health or that of another person.

Under the Data Protection Act, requests for access to records should be met within 40 days. However, government guidance for healthcare organisations says they should aim to respond within 21 days.

Can someone else access my health records?

Health records are confidential, so you can only access someone else’s records if you’re authorised to do so.

To access someone else’s health records, you must have:

  • their written permission, or
  • the legal authority to make decisions on their behalf (power of attorney)

Lasting Power of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows a person to appoint someone else to make decisions on their behalf. The person appointed is called an attorney.

There are two types of LPA relating to:

  • health and welfare
  • property and financial affairs

An attorney appointed on a health and welfare LPA can only make decisions when:

  • the person lacks the mental capacity to make decisions
  • the LPA document has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian

For more information on lasting power of attorney



Applying for access to someone else’s health records

Depending on which health records you want to see, you should submit your request in writing or by email to:

  • the person’s GP surgery
  • the person’s optician
  • the person’s dentist, or
  • the health records manager at the local hospital trust where the person was treated

This is known as a Subject Access Request (SAR).

You can also submit your request using an Access Request Form available from your GP, your local primary care trust or hospital trust.

You will need to send a copy of the person’s written permission with your request.

The health records manager, GP or other healthcare professional will decide whether the request can be approved. They can refuse your request if, for example, they believe that releasing the information may cause serious harm to the person’s physical or mental health or that of someone else.

Under the Data Protection Act, requests for access to records should be met within 40 days. However, government guidance for healthcare organisations says they should aim to respond within 21 days.

Can I access the health records of someone who has died?

If you want to view the health records of a deceased person, under the Access to Health Records Act (1990) you can apply in writing to the record holder.

Under the terms of the Access to Health Records Act (1990), you will only be able to access the deceased’s health records if you are either:

  • a personal representative,
  • executor,
  • administrator,
  • or someone who has a claim resulting from the death (this could be a relative or another person).

After a person has died, their GP health records will be passed to their local primary care trust (PCT) so that they can be stored. To access their GP records, apply to the records manager at the relevant PCT. The deceased person’s GP can tell you which PCT to contact.

For Fees see below

Fees to access health records (at 01/02/2012)

Accessing health records is free of charge if:

  • the records have been updated in the previous 40 days, and
  • you don’t require a copy

If the records have not been updated in the last 40 days and you don’t require a copy, the maximum charge is £10. This charge applies whether the records are stored:

  • on computer
  • partly on computer and partly in another form, for example, paper records such as letters or hand-written clinical notes, or images such as X-ray film
  • totally in another form

If you decide that you do want a copy, the maximum £10 charge for viewing will be included in the fee for obtaining a copy (see below). You will not be charged twice for one access request.

Fees to get a copy of health records

If you want a copy of the health records, the fee will depend on how the records are stored:

  • on computer: maximum £10
  • partly on computer and partly in another form: maximum £50
  • totally in another form: maximum £50

The maximum charges include postage and packaging.

Fees to access health records of someone who has died

You may have to pay a fee to view a deceased person’s health records. You should ask if there is a charge before you apply to see the records.

There will be no charge if the records have been updated in the previous 40 days.

If the records have not been updated in the last 40 days, the maximum charge is £10, whether the records are stored on computer or in another form, such as paper-based records.



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