The Data Protection Act 1998, gives every living person the right to apply for access to his or her health records. The exception to this is the records of the deceased persons, which are still governed by the Access to Health Records Act 1990.
The Act does not give applicants the right to directly inspect their health records, although this can, of course, be agreed between themselves and the GP. However, it remains Practice policy that patients who wish to actually see what is written about them in their records should be allowed to do so, subject to some exemptions and unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary.
Please request access to your records in writing and give this to reception detailing the particular date period you wish to view or have copies of. From the date of your request being received with your consent, the surgery has one calendar month within which to process the request. If, in exceptional circumstances, it is not possible to comply within this period you will be informed.
The GP is responsible for approving all access requests. To comply with an access request the GP has must have sufficient information to;
- identify the applicant
- locate the specific information
- ensure the request is not excessive
Individuals are entitled to apply for access to their whole health record as it was at the time the request was received by the Practice, without giving a reason for their request. However, it is more likely that you will only want to see part of the record, therefore the request needs to confirm which aspects are required.
There are certain circumstances in which the GP may withhold information. Access may be denied, or limited, where;
- The information might cause serious harm to the physical or mental health or condition of the patient involved or any other person.
- Giving access would disclose information relating to or provided by a third person who has not consented to the disclosure.
- An access request has previously been complied with; record holders need not respond to a subsequent identical or similar request unless a reasonable interval has elapsed. Reasonable charges may be made should this be the case.
NB: The decision to refuse access on the above grounds will be made by the GP.
You can find advice on the Information Commissioner's (ICO) website on how to make a subject access requests [ico.org.uk/sar] and information on their powers and the action they can take [ico.org.uk/action] or call them on 0303 123 1113.