The Data Protection Act 1998, which came into force in March 2000, allows access to the whole of the medical record. The Access to Health Records Act 1990, allowing access from November 1991 onwards, has now been superseded except where the patient is deceased.
Formal applications for access must be in writing. The records must be vetted by a partner as information relating to identifiable third parties (without consent), or which in the opinion of the appropriate health professional would be likely to cause harm, must be witheld. Other health professionals who have contributed to the health record are generally excluded from this (i.e. do not have to be contacted in order to release their contribution) but the BMA recommends that liaison may be helpful in some cases, especially with respect to psychiatric records.
Access must be given within 40 days of receipt of the fee. Fee requests will be sent prior to records being posted.
Unless the whole medical record has been requested and consent clearly given on that basis, we must not send the whole record.
No fee can be charged for allowing the applicant to read their records if all the information requested is held in manual form, no copy is requested and an entry has been made in the 40 days prior to a request. If manual records have not been added to in the 40 days prior to a request, £10 may be charged. If copies are requested where at least part of the information requested is held manually, a reasonable fee of up to £50 may be charged for providing access and supplying copies.
If records are totally held on computer, a maximum of £10 may be charged for providing access and/or copies of the records.
Access to Medical Reports Act 1988
This entitles patients to see insurance and legal reports. The patient should sign a consent form whether or not they wish to see the insurance report before they are returned to the company. This form should accompany the request to the doctor.