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Requesting Medical Records

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 living persons have the right to access personal information held about themselves in either computerised or manual form. This relates to all existing records and includes NHS medical records and private healthcare records.

You need to make a written request to the holder of the records e.g a hospital or doctors’ surgery. Each organisation has a designated ‘data controller’. You must include sufficient information to enable the record holder to be able to identify your records. You may be asked to complete a special form to access your records.

Time limits

  • If the records were updated during the 40 days before the date of your application, you should be given access within 21 days.
  • If the records were updated more than 40 days before the date of your application, you should receive the records within 40 days.

Cost

You will probably have to pay a fee to obtain the medical records.
You are advised to ask what the cost will be when you make the application.

The Trust or GP is entitled to charge extra for the cost of making copies and posting the records to you. There is no limit on this charge, but it should be reasonable and proportionate. The maximum fee which can be charged to access a living person’s medical records is £50, including all copying and postage costs.

Who should you write to?

  • To request GP records, you should write to the Practice Manager at the GP surgery if they have this information. If they are no longer held at the practice, the medical practice will advise you.
  • To request NHS hospital records, apply to the Medical Records Manager/Access to Health Records Team at the NHS Trust, which you attended. The NHS Trust may have information on their website that provides the precise address details, so it is worth checking. If you cannot find this information it can be worth making a call to the Trust’s Access to Medical Records Team to ensure that you are writing to the correct department and address.
  • To request private hospital records, write to the private hospital involved, addressing your letter to the Medical Records Manager/Access to Health Records Team.

Requesting Medical Records after death

The rules relating to the disclosure of a deceased person’s medical records differs significantly from the general rules about release of medical records.

Who can request medical records after a death?

Under the Access to Health Records Act 1990 only certain people have the right to access the medical records of someone who has died. Disclosure is allowed to:

  • The Personal Representative of the person who has died. If the deceased person has a will, the Personal Representative is the Executor of the will. If there is no will, the Personal Representative is known as the Administrator. These claims are covered by the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions Act) 1934;
  • Anyone who may have a claim resulting from the person’s death. Essentially, this means the deceased person’s estate, (again, the Executor or the Administrator) or the “dependents” of the deceased. There are strict criteria as to who is considered a “dependent”; very generally, this includes spouses, civil partners, children, parents and people living in the same household for at least 2 years before the death and immediately before the death as husband/wife/civil partner. These claims are covered by the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.

You will need to provide evidence that you fall under one of these two categories. This is fairly straightforward if you are looking after the estate. The deceased’s Personal Representative can provide a copy of the Grant of Probate (if you are the Executor of the will), or a copy of the Grant of Letters of Administration (if you are the Administrator).

The situation becomes more complicated if you are not the Personal Representative, but believe you may have a claim resulting from the person’s death.

All other procedures apply as when requesting Medical Records of a person who has died.

Cost

You will probably have to pay a fee to obtain the medical records of a person who has died. You are advised to ask what the cost will be when you make the application.