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Red stethoscope on blue clipboard with medical record close-up with silver colored pen

Accessing your Medical Records

Thyroid UK suggests that people keep a note of their test results so that they can see the full picture of their thyroid health.

There are two types of medical records.  General Practitioners (GPs) have a record of all your clinical information, and there is an online record called Summary Care Record (SCR) so that the NHS can share important information about you with clinicians at various stages of your care. You can decide whether or not to opt into an SCR.

The NHS Constitution contains a right for patients to access their health records, which is covered by the Data Protection Act 1998 and the General Data Protection Act (GDPR).

“You have the right of access to your own health records and to have any factual inaccuracies corrected”

Data Protection Act 1998 and the General Data Protection Act (GDPR)

Although you may be asked why you want to access your health records, there is no obligation for you to tell anyone.

How can I access my health records?

You can sign up to GP online services to view parts of your Summary Care Record including information about medication, allergies, vaccinations, previous illnesses and test results.  The service is free and available to everyone who is registered with a GP.

However, if this option is not available to you, you may need to ask your doctor for access to your medical records to get copies of your test results.

To access your medical records informally, you can simply ask your doctor, during a consultation, to view your records and write them down or ask for a copy of your results.

Alternatively, you can telephone or write to your healthcare provider i.e. doctor, dentist etc. to arrange a time to see your records and then you can make a note of your results. This is known as a Subject Access Request (SAR).  Under the General Data Protection Act, you must receive a response to your request within one month.

There is no charge to see your records unless the request is manifestly unfounded or excessive.  The British Medical Association inform their members that the initial request is free but a “reasonable fee” can be charged for further requests.

When requesting your personal information from an organisation, make sure you include the following information:

  • your full name, address and contact telephone number
  • details of the specific information you require and any relevant data i.e. your medical records (between 2006 & 2009) held by Dr ‘A’ at ‘B’ hospital

Read more about accessing your health records

Can my request for access be refused?

A healthcare provider can refuse access if the request is manifestly unfounded or excessive or if it is likely to cause serious physical or mental harm to the patient or another person.  Where access has been refused on this basis, you must be given an explanation as to why access has been refused and you must also be informed that you have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Read more about the GDPR Right of Access and the advice to GPs from the British Medical Association (BMA)

Can I access someone else’s health records?

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

  • be acting on their behalf with their consent, or
  • have the legal authority to make decisions on their behalf (power of attorney), or
  • have another legal basis for access

There are specific rules for applying for access to someone else’s records and these rules apply if you would like someone else to access your records.

Read more about accessing someone else’s health records

Can I access the health records of my children?

Parents can make a SAR on behalf of children under the age of 18 if this is not contrary to the child’s best interests or a competent child’s wishes.  If your child is over the age of 18 they can make their own request and you would need to get their consent to make a SAR.

Read more about accessing someone else’s health records

Can I access the health records of someone who has died?

The GDPR does not apply to the data of deceased persons.  If you want to see the health records of someone who has died, you need to apply in writing to the record holder under the Access to Health Records Act (1990) and you will only be able to access the deceased’s health records if you are either:

  • a personal representative (the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate) or
  • someone who has a claim resulting from the death (this could be a relative or another person)

Read more about accessing someone else’s health records


For more support check out our online community:

Date updated: 02.02.21 (V1.1)

Review date:  26.09.21

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