IT managers handling electronic medical records (EMRs) need to ensure that their systems and networks can deal with access requests and EMR retention requirements...
The United Kingdom's Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 (text) establishes a person’s right of access to reports relating to themselves provided by medical practitioners for employment or insurance purposes.
The Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 governs access to medical records (and EMRs) made by a medical practitioner who is, or has been responsible for the clinical care of the patient, for insurance or employment purposes. The Act does not cover reports prepared by other medical practitioners, such as those contracted by the employer or insurance company. These reports are covered by the Data Protection Act 1998. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 can also stop the release of medical reports under certain circumstances.
A person cannot ask a patient’s medical practitioner for a medical report (including EMRs) on him/her for insurance or employment reasons without the patient’s knowledge and consent. Patients have the option of declining to give consent for a report about them to be written.
The patient can apply for access to the report at any time before it is supplied to the employer/insurer, subject to certain exemptions (in paragraph 62 below). The medical practitioner should not supply the report until this access has been given, unless 21 days have passed since the patient has communicated with the doctor about making arrangements to see the report.
Access incorporates enabling the patient to attend to view the report or providing the patient with a copy of the report.
Once the patient has had access to the report, it should not be supplied to the employer/insurer until the patient has given their consent. Before giving consent, the patient can ask for any part of the report that they think is incorrect to be amended.
If an amendment is requested, the medical practitioner should either amend the report accordingly, or, at the patient’s request, attach to the report a note of the patient’s views on the part of the report which the doctor is declining to amend. Patients should request amendments in writing. If no agreement can be reached, patients also have the right to refuse supply of the report. Fees
A medical practitioner may make a reasonable charge for supplying the patient with a copy of the report.
EMRs and Retention
Medical practitioners must retain a copy of the report for at least 6 months following its supply to the employer/insurer. During this period patients continue to have a right of access for which the medical practitioner may charge a reasonable fee for a copy.
The medical practitioner is not obliged to give access to any part of a medical report whose disclosure would in the opinion of the practitioner:
- cause serious harm to the physical or mental health of the individual or others, or;
- indicate the intentions of the medical practitioner towards the individual, or;
- identify a third person, who has not consented to the release of that information
Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 (text)
Supervision and enforcement
- Department of Health
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