Henrietta Frew
Senior Associate Solicitor
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Date Published:05 Oct 2021 Last Updated:13 Oct 2021

Accessing Health and Care Records

Healthcare

A person may wish to obtain a third party’s health records for a variety of reasons. As health records are confidential, understandably there are rules regarding who may obtain someone else’s health records and exactly what information can be disclosed.

If someone wishes to obtain their own health records, then the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and Data Protection Act apply. To obtain records from an NHS body or third party care provider, a Data Subject Access Request (DSAR) should be submitted.

In order to obtain access to someone else’s health records, a person must be acting on the third party’s behalf with their consent, have Power of Attorney or have another legal basis for accessing the records. In all cases of obtaining a third party’s health records, Data Protection rules apply.

If a patient has passed away, then the access of health records is regulated by statute under the Access to Health Records Act 1990. Under these regulations, health records can only be obtained by a personal representative (an executor or administrator of the estate) or by someone who may have a claim resulting from the death. If the records are being obtained in relation to a potential claim, then only information directly relevant to the claim may be disclosed.

The Care Quality Commission have also published guidance on accessing medical and care records.

How long are health records held for?

The length of time that a service provider holds health records depends on the type of record and who is holding them.

Example record retention periods are detailed below. These relate to the minimum periods for which records must be retained and it may be that there are occasions when records are held for longer.

  • Adult social care records are held for 8 years following death of a patient
  • GP records are kept for 10 years following the death of a patient
  • Most hospital records are kept for 8 years following the conclusion of treatment
  • Mental health records are kept for 20 years or 10 years following the death of a patient
  • Children’s health records are held until their 25th or 26th birthday

How can Ellis Jones help?

Our Healthcare team can help with obtaining records or dealing with any questions/issues care providers may have about disclosing records to patients or relatives of patients that request them. Should you wish to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Henrietta Frew in our Healthcare team on 01202 525333 or henrietta.frew@ellisjones.co.uk.