The thought that a loved one may have died as a result of poor medical care can add an extra stress to an already grieving family. Reasons why a family may want to see medical records of a loved one may be to ascertain what happened to them, or to go through records down the years to find out if there was a case of missed diagnosis as in the case of cancer.
The law relating to general rules about release of medical records doesn’t quite apply when it comes to the disclosure of a deceased person’s medical records. Sometimes the process may not be easy to navigate as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which gives automatic access to your own records is set aside when trying to access the records of someone who has died. Additionally, the Data Protection Act only applies to living individuals and patient confidentiality also extends even beyond death.
Who Can Request Medical Records After A Death?
According to the Access to Health Records Act 1990, the Personal Representative of the person who has died can make a request. Where the deceased person has a Will, the Personal Representative is known as the Executor of the Estate and if there is no will, the person is known as the Administrator.
Any person who may want to make a claim as a result of the person’s death. This can be the representative of the deceased’s Estate (the Executor or the Administrator), or the ‘dependants’ of the deceased. The dependents here include spouses, civil partners, children, parents and people living in the same household for at least 2 years before the death and immediately before the death as husband/wife/civil partner. According to the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 or the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, these set of people can make civil claims from the circumstances surrounding the person’s death.
If you fall within any of these categories, then you have to provide evidence. For instance, the Personal Representative can provide a copy of the Grant of Probate (Executor), or a copy of the Grant of Letters of Administration (Administrator). This representative does not need to provide a reason why he is making a request for the records.
It is not very straightforward if you are not the Personal Representative, but believe you may have a claim resulting from the person’s death and can sometimes be complicated. The easier way remains to have the Personal Representative to make the requests.
Otherwise, the person will have to show evidence of their relationship with the deceased if they feel they are entitled to bring a claim and must also state specifically why they want the records. Such a person may find it difficult accessing those records and such cases, our specialist medical negligence team can help.
Persons who do not fall into any of these categories must write to the hospital or GP stating that;
- They have a valid reason for requesting the records;
- They have a legitimate relationship to the deceased;
- Access to the records is in the public interest.
If you want to request GP records, you should write to the Practice Manager at the deceased’s GP surgery. In the case of NHS hospital records, apply to the Access to Medical Records Team at the Hospital the deceased person was attended to. You can also call the Hospital’s Access to Medical Records Team for assistance.
If the records were updated during the 40 days before the date you applied, you will most likely have access to the documents within 21 days. However, if the records were updated more than 40 days before the date you applied, you should receive the records within 40 days.
Also, note that in line with the Access to Health Records Act 1990, the records of a deceased person must be provided free of charge.
Making A Claim For Lost Medical Records
You may be able to make claims for lost medical records compensation if the Hospital lost the records and is unable to provide you with the documents you seek especially where you suspect that your loved one may have died as a result of medical negligence.
This is where our medical negligence experts can help you to see that the records are provided and if they are truly lost, ensure that you are adequately compensated.
Therefore, if this is the case with you, reach out to us by dialing our Helplines and let us speak with you to discuss your claims.
Our consultation sessions are for free while we also undertake your claims under our No Win No fee policy. You therefore have nothing to fear in terms of financial risks.
Reach out to us today without delay as you have a time limit for making such claims.