The General Data Protection Regulations and the Data Protection Act 2018 replaced the Data Protection Act 1998 on 25 May 2018.
Since 25 May, patients must be given access to their medical records as a Subject Access Request (SAR) including when a patient authorises access by a third party such as a solicitor. Rights of access are not limited to health records held by NHS bodies and apply to private health sector and health professionals’ private practice records.
Once the request has been received and verified, the patient must be provided with a copy of their data without delay and within 28 days from the date of the request.
This time limit can be extended for 2 months where the request is complex or where the data controller needs more time to collate and supply the data however, the patient must be informed of this extension within 28 days and be provided with an explanation as to why this is necessary.
The medical records that already exist will be accessible for free, however the Trust or GP is entitled to charge extra for the cost of making copies and posting the records to you if the request is found to be excessive although these circumstances are likely to be rare. Instances where a request may be deemed “excessive” include if an individual makes a SAR and then makes a second request for the same information within a short period of time.
The rules relating to the disclosure of a deceased person’s medical records differs significantly from the general rules about release of medical records. The GDPR does not apply to data concerning deceased patients.
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:
You may need to provide evidence that you fall under one of these two categories. This is fairly straightforward if you are looking after the estate and are in possession of 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 may require further explanation on your part if you are not the Personal Representative, but believe you may have a claim resulting from the person’s death.
The same procedures apply as when requesting Medical Records of a person who is alive.
The cost of requesting a deceased person’s medical records
Changes to the Data Protection Act 2018 have also amended the Access to Health Records Act 1990 which now states access to records of deceased patients and any copies, must be provided free of charge.
Should you need to update your medical records, or feel that the information is outdated or incorrect, such as your personal details changing, you will need to approach the relevant health professional and ask to have the record amended. Some hospitals and GP surgeries may have online capabilities which can allow you to update your information.
Please note, where patients seek correction of information they believe is inaccurate, the health professional is not obliged to accept the patient’s opinion, but must ensure that the notes in question indicate the patient’s view.
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