Legal Right to Access Medical Records

Legal Right to Access Medical Records

Everyone has a legal right to access their own medical records. In practice, however, patients can encounter various difficulties when liaising with healthcare facilities to get these documents.

Hospitals and doctors’ offices can sometimes charge you to return your records. The specific cost of this varies depending on the nature of the record and the medical facility in question. Delays are also a common issue.

However, there are a number of legal provisions that require healthcare providers to furnish patients with medical records in a timely fashion and for a reasonable sum. If your doctor or hospital is refusing to do this, there’s a good chance they’re acting unlawfully.

If you’re having difficulty accessing your medical records, consulting with us could be the first step towards resolving your issue.

Different Provisions on Access to Medical Records

The rules on medical records come from a few different legal sources. Your solicitor may invoke one or more of these rules when working on your case, depending on the specifics of your situation.

Access to HSE Records

If you received medical treatment as a public patient, the Health Service Executive is legally obliged to provide you with your records. Upon contacting the relevant department, you should receive the records you require within a reasonable timeframe.

Standard record requests should be free of charge. However, if you require a lot of material, the body in question will be entitled to levy a reasonable fee. There are also some circumstances under which you will not be entitled to access documents in this way, such as where sensitive information is involved.

Data Protection Laws

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) overhauled data protection laws of all kinds for EU members. In the context of medical documents, healthcare providers must keep accurate, up-to-date records on patients, inform patients of the existence and content of these records when this is requested, and correct any inaccurate information.

There are limited exceptions to these rules, such as where the release of records might pose a risk to your health.

The Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 provides for a general right of access to medical records arising from public healthcare services. While certain bodies have exemptions from this rule, most public healthcare providers will have to comply with it. Again, there may be an exception where the release of records could pose a risk to your wellbeing.

You should note that Freedom of Information Act requests are not possible in respect of private healthcare records. However, they are available to patients who use medical cards for GP visits.

Private Contracts

If you’re seeking medical records from a private healthcare provider, you may be able to rely on the terms of your contract with this provider. Depending on your situation, it may be more efficient to seek records this way rather than invoking GDPR.


If your records become relevant to a court case, your legal representative will be able to access them through the discovery process. In this situation, the court will issue an order requiring your medical provider to release the relevant documents.

Accessing Your Medical Records in a Timely Fashion

Getting medical documentation can be a more arduous affair than you might expect. If you urgently need medical records and you’re having difficulty securing them, you may need to consult with a solicitor to expedite the process.

Get in contact today to discuss your situation with one of our medical law specialists. We are based in the South East.