Can I get copies of my medical records?
Yes, you can. Everybody has the right to access their medical records. You are entitled to see your private health records as well as your NHS records. If you want another person to access your records on your behalf, you will need to authorise them to do so.
You don’t have to explain why you wish to see your records, but you might be asked if you are contemplating legal action against your health care provider. You are entitled to see your records whether or not you intend to take legal action.
A few exceptions
If healthcare professionals consider that there is information in the records that would cause harm to your physical or mental health, they are entitled to refuse access to some or all of the information contained in your records.
Accessing your information
You may be able to access this information online. By 2018, the NHS hopes to have every citizen’s health records accessible to them at the click of a button. These records will detail every visit you’ve made to a GP or hospital, every prescription, all test results and adverse reactions and allergies. In order to access your records, you will generally need to fill in a short form and take proof of your identity into your GP surgery. This will enable the practice staff to provide you with login details and a password. However, if you don’t have access to a computer, you can still have access to your records by contacting your GP surgery.
Online access to your GP records is free of charge. However, charges may apply if you wish to see the originals or get physical copies made. The maximum charge for obtaining copies of your records is £10 for records held online and up to £50 if you want copies of records that are not available in electronic form.
Obtaining health records of someone who has died
When someone dies, their GP health records will be passed to Primary Care Support England. If you want to see the health records of a deceased person, you will need to apply in writing to the record holder under the Access to Health records Act (1990). The deceased’s GP will be able to tell you who to contact.
GP records are generally retained for 10 years after the patient’s death. Hospital records are kept for at least 8 years following the completion of treatment or a person’s death. Maternity records are retained for 25 years; in the case of a child, records are kept until the patient’s 25th birthday, or 26th if an entry was made when the young person was 17, or 8 years after death of a patient if sooner. In the case of those receiving treatment for a mental disorder, as defined in mental health legislation, records are retained for 20 years from the cessation of treatment or 10 years after the patient’s death if sooner.
Understanding what’s in medical records
You might find abbreviations and medical terminology included in your records difficult to understand. If that’s the case, the healthcare provider should be able to provide an explanation.