The United Kingdom's Access to Health Records Act 1998 (text) establishes a person's right to have access to another's health records. The Act provides the legal framework in which inaccurate records can be corrected.
Managers handling health records in both the private and public sectors need to ensure that their computer systems can deal with access requests to health records. The Access to Health Records Act 1990 only deals with access requests made on behalf of someone who has died, or by a personal representative of a living person. A living person can make their own request for access to their health records under the Data Protection Act 1998.
The person making the access request on behalf of another is defined under Section 3(1)(f) of the Act as, ‘the patient’s personal representative and any person who may have a claim arising out of the patient’s death’. A personal representative is the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate.
Personal representatives of deceased
The personal representative is the only person who has an unqualified right of access to a deceased patient’s record and need give no reason for applying for access to a record. Individuals other than the personal representative have a legal right of access under the Act only where they can establish a claim arising from a patient’s death.
Other claimants wanting access to health records
The law is less certain where individuals may have a claim arising out of the patient’s death. For example, those with a financial claim against the deceased. Determining who these individuals are and whether there are any other types of claim is not straightforward.
The decision as to whether a claim exists lies with the health records holder. In cases where it is not clear whether a claim arises the record holder should seek legal advice.
Supervision and Enforcement
- UK Department of Health
Access to Health Records Act 1998 (text)
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