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Accessing your medical records

If you want to complain about NHS treatment which you did or didn’t receive, you might find it helpful to get a copy of your medical records first. 

What do my patient records include?

Patient records include:

  • GP records
  • records made by doctors and nurses in hospital
  • records made by other NHS staff
  • records of your visits to a practice, clinic or hospital
  • records of visits to you
  • details of your treatment, including medication, tests and their results

Your rights

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 you have a right to see your records unless your doctor thinks that accessing some or all of your records would cause harm to you or someone else. When you get your medical records, always ask whether the records are complete, or whether they have anything else which they don’t wish you to see.

Applying for your records

You have to apply to see your records, and some Trusts or GP Practices have a form you can use for this. At most trusts there is someone in charge of dealing with access requests. 

The Trust or GP Practice:

  • should give you your records within 40 days of applying to see them, or 21 days if they have been added to within the last 40 days
  • are allowed to charge you for seeing your records, if they have not been added to within the last 40 days (this charge should not be more than £10)
  • have to explain anything in the records that is not easy to read or understand
  • can charge you for the cost of postage and photocopying, up to a maximum of £50

Accessing someone else’s medical records

If you are applying to access someone else’s records, they must agree to this in writing. This includes parents applying to see a child’s records, if the child is able to understand what’s happening. Where a patient is unable to give permission because of incapacity or illness, you may need to seek legal advice and get a court authorisation.

When a patient has died, only a Personal Representative is allowed to access their records. A Representative is usually an executor, or someone making a claim relating to death. However, patients can request that certain people are not given access to their records when they die.

If you think the records you’ve been given are inaccurate

You can ask for the records to be corrected. If the Trust or doctor disagrees with the changes you want to make, you can still ask them to make a written record of the changes you want and attach it to the records.

To make a complaint about accessing medical records

Contact the Data Protection Information Commissioner: ico.org.uk/global/contact-us