How to access medical records

Medical records and medical history - do you know yours? Very important when required, so here are some tips on how to access the information held about you.

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 them. Copies of records are supplied only if a formal application for access to the records has been made.

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 a registered health professional such as:

  • your GP surgery
  • your optician
  • your dentist
  • the hospital trust's health records manager or patient services manager

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 sometimes refuse to disclose information if, for example the information you have asked for contains information that relates to 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. 

Fees to access your health records

You may have to pay a fee to access your health records, so ask if there is a charge before you apply to see them.

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