Patients have the right to have copies of their medical records, although in exceptional circumstances the law allows for records to be withheld.
The law concerning this is contained mainly in the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Access to Health Records Act 1990.
Applying for a copy of your records is very simple. You just have to write to the record holder, GP and/or hospital, asking them to provide you with copies of the records they hold relating to you.
When applying to your GP or a private doctor you should address the letter to the doctor him/herself. When writing to a hospital where you received treatment you should address the letter to their Medical Records Department. The letter should make clear your full name, address and date of birth so that the record holder can easily identify you. If you know your hospital number you should quote this too.
The record holder can charge a fee for supplying you with the copies, which under the Data Protection Act cannot exceed £50. They cannot charge for the cost of copying or postage in addition to this fee.
There are exceptions to the £50 maximum rule. For example, where the records are all automated the fee is £10. Also, if you are applying for records of a deceased relative then the maximum fee for access is £10, but additional copying and postage costs can be charged.
The record holder should supply you with copies within 40 days of receiving your request or your payment, whichever is later.
If any of the records are not clear you are entitled to ask for better copies.
X-Rays and Scans
Some patients will have had x rays or scans taken, which form part of their records. Obtaining access to these is covered by the same rules. When writing to the doctor/hospital you should say if you want copies of the x rays and/or scans as well. These should be supplied within the £50 maximum fee, but if there are a lot, the doctor/hospital may charge more as copying films can prove expensive.
Refusal to supply copies
There are only limited circumstances in which a record holder can refuse to provide you with copies. One situation is when the doctor/hospital fear that the contents of the notes may have an adverse affect on your health. They can also refuse if the records identify someone else or providing the copies involves disproportionate effort. Both of these exclusions only apply in unusual situations.
If the record holder refuses to supply you with copies without good reason then you can apply to Court for an Order for them to do so.