Department of Health’s Guidance for Access to Health Records Requests

The Department of Health issued updated guidance on patient access to health records today. My thanks to Mark Duman, of the Patient Information Forum, for bringing my attention to this. Full details are on our personal health records wiki, but the main are take-homes are clear: the patient is entitled to a copy of their records at any time.

  1. Individuals have a right to apply for access to health information held about them and, in some cases, information held about other people. NHS organisations should ensure they have adequate procedures in place to enable patients to exercise this right.
  2. The following guidance assists NHS organisations in England, through the process of dealing with an access request in accordance with the relevant legislation and any subsequent considerations. This supersedes previous guidance issued by the Department of Health in July 2002 and June 2003 titled ‘Access to Health Records’.
  3. The main legislative measures that give rights of access to health records include:
    • The Data Protection Act 1998 – rights for living individuals to access their own records. The right can also be exercised by an authorised representative on the individual’s behalf.
    • The Access to Health Records Act 1990 – rights of access to deceased patient health records by specified persons.
    • The Medical Reports Act 1988 – right for individuals to have access to reports, relating to themselves, provided by medical practitioners for employment or insurance purposes.


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