There are numerous reasons why you may want to see your own medical records. You may have an ongoing illness, you need to refresh your memory on a previous condition or you might just be curious!
Whatever the reason, in the UK under the ‘Data Protection Act 1998’ you are entitled to your records if you request them.
How to get your Medical Records
Before we go into the best way to obtain your records, here are a few quick things you should know:
- Cost – You can be charged an administration fee of up to £50 for these records.
- There isn’t a legal requirement that means you have to make a formal request to see your records. Ask your GP or hospital when you next have an appointment if you are able to have a look at them.
- When you make a request it should be met within 40 days – Government guidance is 21 days for healthcare organisations.
Keep in mind that you are legally entitled to these documents and any reasonable request should not be declined. (There are some exceptional circumstances were they legally can be).
If you feel that your records are being unlawfully withheld from you, contact the Information Commisioners Office (ICO).
I had some trouble obtaining my own records from the GP, the ICO were both friendly and helpful. It’s reassuring to know they are on your side!
Formally requesting your own medical records is done through something called a ‘Subject Access Request’.
This is how my letter looked, feel free to use it as a template letter.
Dear [Doctors Name]/Sirs
Ref: Subject Access Request – My Medical Records
I am writing to request that you provide me with a copy of my medical records. [Change if you require different information]
I am entitled to this information under the ‘Data Protection Act 1988’. I understand that there may be an administration charge for this (up to £50). Please write to me within 7 days of receipt of this letter to inform me if there will be a cost, how much it is and how I can pay it. I will be happy to make this payment promptly.
IMPORTANT: Send this as a ‘Royal Mail – signed for’ delivery. My GP surgery claimed not to have had my first letter.
Follow Up Letter
Asking for a reply within 7 days is important. I didn’t do this at first and waited 40 days (the maximum legal time frame), they then claimed not to have received my letter. I delivered it again by hand, waited another 40 days, only to be told that the 40 days starts at the point of payment!
If you don’t here back after 7 days send them another signed for letter. It could look like this:
Dear [Doctors Name]/Sirs
Ref: Subject Access Request – My Medical Records. Follow Up
As per my letter on [date], I have not received confirmation of receipt of my letter. This was signed for by [name of person who signed for letter – available online from your post office receipt].
Please can you confirm you have received my ‘Subject Access Request’ and if there will be an administration fee to pay. May I remind you that whilst you legally have 40 days to comply with this request, the government guidance is 21 days for healthcare organisations.
It’s important to send this follow up letter. It let’s the doctors know you haven’t forgotten and sending it by registered mail just ensures there is a clear record of when you sent the letters.
When you are not feeling well, having to chase things up can be difficult! Hopefully this set of template letters will help you will help you avoid having problems in obtaining your medical records.
If you are still having trouble, make sure you contact the ICO! They will be able to help and if you keep the information of when you sent letters and copies of them, it will make that process much easier.