Under the terms of the Access to Health Records Act, you will only be able to access the deceased’s health records if you are either:
- A personal representative (i.e. the Executor or Administrator of the deceased person’s estate).
- Someone who may have a claim resulting from their death (this could be a relative or another person but in most instances is a spouse, child or other dependent). However, please be aware that only information directly relevant to a claim will be disclosed in this instance.
You will need to provide evidence when requesting the records that you fall within one of these two categories. If you are a personal representative then you can provide a copy of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. If you are an Executor in the Will but have not yet received a Grant of Probate then you may be able to apply with a copy of the Will.
If you are not a personal representative, then you will need to show evidence of your relationship to the deceased such as through a marriage certificate or birth certificate.
What if you don’t meet the automatic criteria to access medical records?
If you do not fall into either of the above categories, you can still apply but you do not have an automatic right to the records and the decision about whether records will be disclosed to you will be made on an individual case basis by the provider you are contacting. You would need to set out your reason for requesting the records and confirm what your relationship was to the deceased. It is possible that they may provide you with a redacted version of the records in this instance.
Are medical records ever made public?
Sometimes records will also be disclosed where it is in the public interest. However, there is a very high threshold in these circumstances, as the public interest would need to outweigh the deceased’s right to privacy and maintaining public trust and confidence in the confidentiality of healthcare services.
Other people, who may have a legal right of access to the deceased healthcare records, can include; the Coroner, the Care Quality Commission, and the police.