Freedom of Information (FOI) requests
What Can I See?
You are entitled to see your record and get a copy. Your GP will tell you where the information has come from, and who has access to it. You may receive the information as a computer printout, in a letter, or on a form. It should be easy to understand, and any abbreviations, codes or jargon should be explained. Some information on your record may be withheld from you. This includes information that:
- Could cause serious harm to your, someone else’s physical or mental health;
- Could identify someone else, unless that person gives their permission;
- Or is legally sensitive, for example a pre-adoption report, or a report to a children’s panel.
The GP does not have to tell you if information has been withheld. If you suspect that information has been withheld without a good reason, you should contact the Information Commissioner's information line (see the end of this leaflet for details).
How Long Does It Take?
Once the GP has enough information to identify you and to find the records, and you have paid any fee, he or she must give you the information within 40 days.
What Does It Cost?
You can be charged a fee of up to £10 for each request if your record is held on computer. If your record is held on a paper file or a mixture of paper and computer files (and you want a copy of the information), you can be charged a fee of up to £50.
If any information about you is incorrect or misleading, you are entitled to have it corrected or removed. If the GP agrees with you, it must be corrected. If the GP refuses your request to amend your record, you can ask the Information Commissioner to order that inaccurate information is corrected or removed.
If you suffer physical or financial damage as a result of inaccurate information, you have a right to compensation. If it is proved that you have suffered damage a court may also order compensation for any associated distress you have suffered. You can also claim compensation if your information is lost, damaged, destroyed or given to someone else without the GP’s authority.
The Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 gives you the right to see any medical report on you that a doctor has written for an insurance company or an employer. This includes any doctor who is, or has been, responsible for your medical care—your GP, hospital doctor, consultant, or any other doctor who has treated or advised you. It does not include an independent doctor acting for the insurance company or employer.
How Do I Apply?
You don't have to apply. Before an insurer or employer contacts a doctor for a report on you, they must get your written permission and explain your rights under the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988. The insurer or employer must ask you if you want to see the report before the doctor sends it. If you do, the doctor must be told this. You then have 21 days to arrange to see it. If you have not contacted the doctor by this time, the report can be sent off. Even if you do not tell the insurer or employer beforehand, you can still see the report as long as you ask the doctor for it before it is sent off. Once you have seen the report, the doctor must get your written permission before sending it. The doctor must also keep a copy of any report for six months, and you have a right to see it during this period.
How much does it cost?
There is no charge for inspecting the report. You are entitled to a copy, but the doctor can charge a reasonable fee for providing it.
What Information can’t I see?
You can be refused access to any part of a report if it would:
- In the doctor’s opinion, cause serious harm to you or someone else’s physical or mental health;
- Show how the doctor planned to treat you in the future; or
- Reveal information about someone else or the identity if another person, unless that person has given their permission.
The doctor must tell you if, and why, any information has been withheld from you.
How can I correct Mistakes?
You can ask the doctor to correct any part of the report that you believe is wrong or misleading. If the doctor refuses, you are entitled to prepare a written statement of your views, which must be attached to the report when it is sent.