Accessing Medical Records

Right to Access Your Own Medical Records:

Everyone has a legal right to access their own medical records as they are your own personal records. This right of access is granted by the Freedom of Information Act 2014 (for public records) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (for private records).  

Accessing Your Own Medical Records in the Public Healthcare System

You have a right to request your public medical records under the Freedom of Information Acts. The Freedom of Information (FOI) Acts apply to public bodies and the GP records of a patient who holds a medical card. They do not apply to private hospitals or to a GP’s private patient records. 

In order to request your medical records under FOI, you must write to the appropriate body and state that you are making a request for your medical records under the Freedom of Information Acts. Your request should be as specific as possible and you will need to include a copy of identification (passport or driver’s license). 

The FOI body must acknowledge your request within 2 weeks and furnish the records within a 4 week period. However, the FOI body may ask for more time to complete your request if there are a lot of documents to consider or there is a backlog of requests. If the FOI wishes to extend the time period they must notify you in writing and it cannot be extended for more than a further 4 weeks. 

You do not have to pay to access your own personal records. However you may be charged a nominal fee for the time the public body spends searching and retrieving the records and for copying costs. 

Accessing Your Own Medical Records in the Private Healthcare System

You have a right to request your private medical records under the Data Protection Acts. 

In order to request your medical records under the Data Protection Acts , you must write to the appropriate body and state that you are making a request for your medical records under the Data Protection Acts. Your request should be as specific as possible and you will need to include a copy of identification (passport or driver’s license). 

Where a data protection request is made, a response to the request must be made without undue delay and at the latest within one month of receiving the request. The time to respond can be extended by a further two months if the request is complex or they have received a number of requests from the same individual. However, they must advise the individual of the need to extend the timeframe and explain why the extension is necessary. It is also good practice to keep requesters regularly updated as to the status of their data request.  

Generally speaking, a fee cannot be charged for requesting your medical records. However, a reasonable fee to cover administrative costs (photocopying fee) can be charged if an additional copy of the records is requested.

How Can You Request a Copy of Your Living Family Member’s Records? 

You can make a request under FOI to access the medical information of your child or an adult you care for if they are unable to exercise their rights. The record request will only be granted if it is considered in the best interests of your child or the person you care for. 

How Can I Request the Records of an Individual Who Has Died?

Medical records of the deceased can be requested under FOI. 

You can only access the medical records of a deceased person if you are:

  • The personal representative administering the estate of the person who died
  • Performing some legal function related to the person who died or their estate
  • Their spouse (this includes a divorced spouse or cohabitee), next of kin or another person that the head of the public body considers appropriate

In the third category, the ongoing obligation of confidentiality will be weighed against the potential benefit of sharing relevant information with the requester.

Requesting medical records for yourself or a family member can be an onerous task. Your solicitor can request the records on your behalf. 

To speak with an experienced medical negligence solicitor for assistance with your medical record request, please contact Laura today.