Ever wondered, who can access my health records?


Well the one person who can view your medical records, along with the treating clinicians such as doctor’s, nurse’s and physiotherapist’s etc, is you!


Did you know that you can view your medical records and do not need to make any formal application to do see them, healthcare professionals are able to informally show you your own records? There is no law preventing them from showing you your records informally, however we are sure they would appreciate notice of your request! Access to your GP’s online summary records are encouraged by NHS England in their drive to encourage GP’s to provide more online services to their patients.


Who else can access my medical records?

Later this year the NHS intends to upload its entire patient database to a central electronic system called “spine”. This new system will make your entire medical history and records available to thousands of healthcare professionals nationwide. How secure these records will be will undoubtedly be the subject of heated debate in months to come.


The benefits to having immediate access to your digital records are easy to be see. Any emergency care you require will be benefit having instant details on your allergies, past medical history etc when time is sometimes crucial and your full paper records are not available. Another example is when the patient is unable to give details of any illness etc and they arrive at the medical centre alone and confused.

When the ‘Spine’ system is rolled out across the UK, patients will receive written notification. You will be given eight weeks to respond to the letter. You can take one of four actions:

  • Permit your records to be uploaded (there is no need to write).
  • Object to the uploading of your records.
  • Place restrictions on the people who are able to view them (i.e. GPs and nurses).
  • Place restrictions on the information which is uploaded (i.e. you can ask for details such as abortion or HIV tests to be removed).

So those involved in your healthcare will have access to your medical records, what about others? They can only have access to your records with your written permission. People who you give permission to access your records would be your solicitor’s conducting your medical negligence or personal injury case, insurance companies, particularly for critical illness cover etc. Other than yourself, the only other body that can grant access to your medical records is the Court who can also grant the Police access to your records if it is deemed in the public interest to do so.


How to access other people’s records

If you want to view medical records held by other NHS services you need to make a formal request under the Data Protection Act (1998) and apply in writing to the holder(s) of the records.

To access someone else’s health records, you must:

  • be acting on their behalf with their consent, or
  • have legal authority to make decisions on their behalf, or
  • have another legal basis for access

Your rights

Patients have a right to see all records held on them (Data Protection Act, 1998). However, medical professionals are entitled to withhold your medical records if:

  • They contain information that might cause harm to you
  • They contain information about a third party (this can be removed)
  • You are applying for someone else’s records (unless you have a letter of consent).

Your medical records are held at your GP’s surgery, which will usually allow you to read them if you ask politely. If there is a problem then you can make an official request in writing, which your surgery or hospital is obliged to answer within 40 days. And if there is a further problem with this, you can complain – first to the NHS (ask for their complaint leaflet), then to the Health Ombudsman, and finally to the Information Commissioner.


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