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Find out how you can access your medical records, how much it will cost you and how to access someone else's medical records if you need to.
How to access your records
Your doctor's surgery holds your medical records while a hospital holds records of any treatment you have had there. You have the right to view these under the Data Protection Act 1998. You can simply ask your GP, surgery staff or health authority, if you can inspect your medical records. Check with them, but there is usually a charge (see 'How much it will cost' below) and you may be asked for proof of identity.
However, it is recommended that you apply for access in writing by sending a letter by recorded delivery, including any payment and the required proof of identity. You should receive a response no later than 21 days after your application was received, although by law (according to the Data Protection Act) the hospital or surgery has 40 days to respond to a request in writing.
If the records are held at a hospital, you should address the letter to your hospital Patients Services Manager or Medical Records Officer.
Your records, when presented to you, should be in a format that you understand.
* More about accessing your medical records;
If access to records is denied
You will not be allowed access to your records:
* if healthcare professionals believe that information in the records is likely to cause serious harm to the patient or another person
* details about third parties are included in the records - these may be removed
However, if you are denied access you can approach the Information Commissioner's Office if you think the organisation has breached the Data Protection Act.
* Visit the Information Commissioner's Office website;
How much will it cost?
It will cost you:
* £10 for information held in a computerised format
* up to £50 for manual records
Accessing someone else's records
If you are applying for medical records on behalf of someone else, you will need their consent or a power of attorney.
* Managing your affairs and enduring power of attorney (over 50s section)
Getting more information
The Patients Association has produced a booklet called 'How to obtain access to your medical records' which you may find helpful. It takes you through the necessary steps and includes examples of the kind of letter you will need to send to gain formal access.